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Blood Arts Has No Place In Museums..... - Culture - Nairaland

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Blood Arts Has No Place In Museums..... by Highlife200: 1:33am On Mar 15, 2022
The world knows about blood diamonds. It’s time it learned about blood art.

Last week brought the welcome news that some of the treasures of the Kingdom of Benin looted by the British more than a century ago will at last be repatriated to Nigeria. The Smithsonian Institution has announced that it will return its collection of priceless Benin artifacts — 39 pieces in all — once it hammers out the details of an agreement with Nigeria’s National Commission for Museums and Monuments. Other institutions should follow the Smithsonian’s lead.


The Benin Bronzes, as they are known, are a rich trove of centuries-old artifacts. This year marks 125 years since the British sent more than 1,000 troops to slaughter the people of Benin City. The 1897 raid — known as “The Punitive Expedition” — was a response to the Benin ambush of an earlier British expedition. The exact number of Benin City victims is unknown (some historians say it could be in the thousands), but the killing and destruction were not the end of the crime that was carried out.


When the British entered the Benin Oba (King’s) palace, they found “several hundred unique bronze plaques, suggestive of almost Egyptian design, but of really superb casting,” according to Reginald Bacon, an intelligence officer with the expedition. Soldiers walked out with the plaques, along with other art, ivory, brass, jewelry and garments. Thousands of pieces were taken.



They were “not just loot, they were blood art,” Australian journalist Marc Fennell explained on the podcast “Stuff the British Stole.” Indeed, word was sent back to Britain that selling off Benin’s objects could help offset the cost of the war.

To the Kingdom of Benin and its descendants, the works represented both the pinnacle of their spirituality and the perfection of their craft. The British saw a piggybank for their imperial desires.



“Blood art” is not a term we typically use to describe treasures taken from colonial subjects. But how are they any different from blood diamonds and conflict minerals?

The concept of “blood diamonds” grew out of violent 1990s conflicts in Africa and usually refers to diamonds mined by African rebel groups to fund insurgencies against legitimate governments. In the early 2000s, representatives of diamond-producing states met to come up with Kimberley Process to try to curb the trade of conflict diamonds. The 2006 movie “Blood Diamond” also served to increase global consciousness about diamonds that helped fuel war in Africa.

What defense can there be for holding on to looted objects, then? The standard answer is that returning works from major institutions in the West would come at the cost of preservation, worldwide knowledge and admiration. Yet true education about such objects is already minimized. The polite little information cards under these artifacts rarely tell viewers that the plundered objects helped fund colonial violence.



Proudly owning and displaying stolen art are no less shocking than proudly owning and displaying diamonds that play a role in killing people. If you wouldn’t do one, don’t do the other.

A trickle of change must be turned into a torrent, and I hope the Smithsonian’s agreement will help to touch one off. “Blood art” surely needs its Hollywood moment.

The global Black Lives Matter protests of 2020 put a long-needed spotlight on Western museums and demands by African governments to have their heritages returned. Last year, Germany said it would return Benin Bronzes to Nigeria. The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York returned two of its Benin Bronzes, albeit out of a collection of 160.



In 2012, Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts received a promise of 32 Benin Bronzes, to be transferred over time, from the private collection of Robert Owen Lehman (yes, of Lehman Brothers banking stock). Though Nigeria demanded the art be returned, the museum displayed all 32 of the Bronzes and took ownership of five of them. In November 2021, the Boston Globe’s Malcolm Gay reported that the museum would pause the transfer of ownership of the remaining 27. But museum director Matthew Teitelbaum said “we certainly don’t think we should encourage the return of the objects to the donor.”

To the donor? How about doing the right thing and sending them home?

Meanwhile, the British Museum continues to hold on to its blood art collection of more than 900 Benin Bronzes, offering only temporarily loans back to Nigeria.

Lending stolen items back to their rightful owner adds modern-day insult to colonial-era injury.

More than a century after the Punitive Expedition, the British are still trying to get away with their plunder. But the tide is changing — and it’s good to see an American institution such as the Smithsonian helping to rectify this deep harm by repatriating art stolen in cold blood.




https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2022/03/14/smithsonian-benin-bronzes-stolen-art-british-museum/



https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2022/03/12/oxford-cambridge-return-looted-benin-bronzes-nigeria-within/

Re: Blood Arts Has No Place In Museums..... by Highlife200: 1:38am On Mar 15, 2022
Its become a global call.. its time for repossession. It's important.. let the discussion ans drive continue home and abroad till we get all that was looted........ PLS LALASTICAL, SEUN AND OTHERS MOVE TO FRONT PAGE

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