Week 2 Response – Thoughts on Benin Bronzes

George the Poet’s video about Benin Bronzes praises the greatness of the Benin empire that depicted a sophisticated, modern society during their times with organisation marvelling the Europeans. Unlike most societies, the Benin society was welcoming to foreigners and their trade. However, he also mentions how the Europeans took advantage of Benin’s generosity nature to use their people as slaves. This angered me as not only is it dehumanising but these Empires are where they are today because of them. Furthermore, the Benin bronzes plays a vital role in Nigeria’s culture and history yet the bronzes are not returned to them but could be loaned to them by the British Museum, which houses the largest collection of Benin bronzes. This, I find really insulting as it is stolen art and the Nigerians are not able to keep it or proudly show their heritage because they do not have many. In addition, it is exploitative as tourists from all around flock to the British Museum and are charged per entry, so in a way to me, it is a reminder of their colonisation whereby Britain is still profiting from Nigeria.

The argument is that Nigeria might not have the proper technology to maintain the bronzes, however, how would they ever develop the proper technology if museums refuse to return/lend them their bronzes? Also the tourism industry might be boosted if the bronzes are returned which can create revenue for the country to develop better technology for their own museums. 700 bronzes and 580 bronzes are housed in the British Museum and Ethnological Museum of Berlin respectively and in my opinion, returning at least half of their bronzes to Nigeria can’t harm their museum’s tourist intake and it gives time for Nigeria to develop the proper facilities to manage their own bronzes in the future.