New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, on Monday, returned three looted Benin works of art to Nigeria.

New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, on Monday, has returned three looted Benin works of art looted in the 19th century to Nigeria.

The 16th-century brass plaques and a 14th-century brass head from the Kingdom of Benin, present-day Nigeria —were removed from the Nigerian Royal Palace during the British military occupation in 1897, and moved to the British Museum in London until 1950 when the United Kingdom returned them.

An agreement was entered by The museum and Nigeria Commission For Museums and Monuments (NCMM) to collaborate on mutual loans of Benin objects and other exchange of expertise and art?”.

The works of art re-entered the market after they were returned to the National Museum in Lagos, they settled in hands of private investors who then donated them to the Metropolitan museum in 1991, where they displayed for years.

The two 16th-century brass plaques, “Warrior Chief” and “Junior Court Official” belong to the group of highly contested items called the Benin Bronzes in its collection.

The announcement made in June, on the transfer of the objects to the Nigerian National Collections was confirmed at a signing in New York by Met director Max Hollein and Abba Isa Tijani, Director-General of the National Commission for Museums and Monuments of Nigeria.

Currently, in the European institutions are thousands of the bulk of artefacts, which comprises brass and bronze sculptures including ivory carvings and lots of other items. Efforts are being made by some European institutions to facilitate their return.

Speaking at the event, Prof. Abba Isa Tijani, director-general of the NCMM, said: “If other museums can do what the Met did, I think we would be able to give confidence to our audience, to our visitors.”

He said: “The issue of repatriation is now at the heart of the people. People are looking at museums, particularly in Europe, and saying: these artefacts are not legally owned, are not their own. Yet they display these objects and take all the credit.”

The Met also helped in the return of a 14th century brass “life Head” from the wunmonije Compound in Nigeria that it had been offered, which was not part of its collection. All the three works of art were researched in partnership with the British Museum, which owns over 900 objects from the Kingdom of Benin.

The Met stated it would “lend works from Benin” to Nigerian museums and, in return, Abuja would provide “loans” to the Met with a view to the creation of a new museum wing by 2024.

About 160  objects from Benin City, most of them donated in the 1970s and ’90s by individuals who obtained them on the art market under unknown circumstances, are housed currently in the Met.

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