Video George the Poet – The Benin Bronze: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3IlUMUGUorw#action=share
It was an eye-opening story in which the fate of cultural artefacts the Benin Bronze ‘plundered’ by British forces during colonialism period was being debated. It was asked whom this artefacts belong to, is it part of the Nigeria history? Or it has now become a part of British history?
To me, it really remind me (and mentioned by Sujatha as well) of the Elgin Marbles I learnt when taking DD8008 Faith & Art last semester. In the end, it feels like it comes back to the question: what is history and whom does it belong to?. Personally, I am one of those who believe that the history belong to the human race and it doesn’t matter where it is being stored geographically. As long as the items are being taken care of, it is still a proved of our history, the history of the world. Meanwhile, the word ‘own’ and ‘belong’ to me, sounds to be an egoistic phrase used for countries/museums to be ‘fighting’ over artefacts. Because eventually, the artefacts will be the reasons for visitors to come and improve their visits and tourism industry. If that is the reason, doesn’t it feel like we have lost the true meaning of preserving the history of mankind and making it to be tools that give economic benefit?
An interesting thing I remembered that is kind of related is the story of the Lampedusa cross. The story can be read here: https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-35360682 and https://www.maristmessenger.co.nz/2017/01/31/the-carpenter-and-the-crosses/
In summary, a carpenter named Francisco Tuccio’s crafted “Lampedusa Cross” out of a scattered collection of driftwood washed ashore from boats carrying Eritrean refugees. Tuccio sat and witnessed migrants mourn for the losses of their loved ones and was inspired to provide a sense of hope for those that left their homes with expectations of a better life. Hence, he used pieces of driftwood to make small individual crosses for refugees that lived near him to represent the dreams of those hoping to persist and survive. His simple gesture served as a reminder to continue to have faith. In October of 2015, his story made its way to the British Museum, which commissioned him to make a cross to encapsulate this poignant moment in history.
The story really made me feel that other than focusing on the past artefacts, we should also find works from our generation to be the ‘future artefacts’ and what we want our generation to pass on to be part of culture of the next ones.
UPDATE: researching on the Benin Bronze again, I found this news: https://news.artnet.com/art-world/benin-dialogue-group-ocotober-2018-1376824 which basically share that major museums across Europe have agreed to loan important artefacts back to Nigeria for a new Royal Museum planned to open in 2021. Even though the items will be on loan, I think it is a really good arrangement for everyone to show respect towards the humanity artefacts and giving opportunity for it to be shown in its homeland it was made. I guess, even though it is quite political and has financial reason, it is a great steps towards preserving the history of humanity together more than as per country.