(featured image- Benin Plaque: Source bbc.co.uk)
It was a historic and emotional moment in Benin City, Nigeria when a brave British man returned artefacts thought to have been stolen during a British raid in 1897 back to its homeland in Benin City.
According to AFP reports, the two statues were among a family collection owned by Mark Walker, a retired medical consultant whose grandfather was part of a British raid on the Benin kingdom in the 19th century.
The rare artefacts are thought to be part of thousands of British loot which Nigeria has been trying to get back from families of soldiers who were involved in the war as well as museums and galleries around the world where some of the works are being displayed.
At a special ceremony in honour of the event on Friday, the Oba of Benin- Oba Uku Akpolokpolo Erediauwa 1, was presented the statues by Walker who flew in just for the event which was attended by dignitaries and royals.
Walker was hailed a hero after deciding to return the artefacts back to their origin when he discovered that they were part of a ‘loot’ during a raid while reading his grandfather’s diary.
He told the AFP, “I’m very proud to be part of this because it is clearly seen as an historic occasion. I had no idea it would be regarded with such importance and it is very gratifying to me to have been able to play some small part in the history of the restoration of the bronzes because I think more will come back.”
The history of the journey which took the statues from their home in Benin to a British family home began when 9 British Officers were killed on a trade mission to King Erediauwa’s grandfather during his rule over the independent kingdom of Benin.
The British reacted by sending a batch of Military men armed with superior rifles and combat gear and the city was attacked leaving many dead, the city set ablaze and the King fled into exile.
The looting of the Palace resulted in the loss of important pieces of art including those returned on Friday with direct ancestral links to past Benin rulers. Most of the loot have been sitting in the British Museum ever since with repeated calls to get them back so far unsuccessful.
Mr Walkers’ show of understanding and support has renewed calls for the rest of the art works taken forcibly from their origin years ago, to be returned back to where they belong.
It is hoped that his ‘symbolic’ gesture will encourage other descendants of soldiers who fought in the Benin war to also return art stolen from the Kingdom.