Earlier this week, 31 historical artifacts were finally returned to the Nigerian government. The Benin Bronzes—which were on display at the Rhode Island School of Design Museum—were given back to the Nigerian National Collections.
The transference took place during a ceremony at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. The relics were stolen by the British in the late 19th century. In June, the Smithsonian Institution’s Board of Regents voted to return 29 of them as well as one piece from the National Gallery of Art.
On an international level, cultural institutions have been making more of an effort to right their past wrongs and return stolen artifacts. The Horniman Museum and Gardens in London shared in August that it would also return 72 of the Benin Bronzes to the Nigerian government.
In a statement, Rhode Island School of Design Museum Interim Director Sarah Ganz Blythe explained:
“In 1897 the ‘Head of an Oba’ was stolen from the Royal Palace of Oba Ovonranwmen. The RISD Museum has worked with the Nigerian National Commission for Museums and Monuments to repatriate this sculpture to the people of Nigeria where it belongs.”
The director-general of Nigeria’s National Commission for Museums and Monuments, Abba Isa Tijani, said that he wants more African pieces to be returned:
“We hope for great collaborations with these museums and institutions and we have already opened promising discussions with them concerning this. The entire world is welcome to join in this new way of doing things. A way free from rancours and misgivings. A way filled with mutual respect.”
In 1897, the Benin Bronzes were taken after British forces invaded the Benin kingdom, which is now known as Nigeria.