A deal has been made last month by the Benin Dialogue Group (BDG) that would see “some of the most iconic pieces” in the historic collection returned on a temporary basis to form an exhibition at the new Benin Royal Museum in Edo State within three years. More than 1,000 of the bronzes are held at museums across Europe, with the most valuable collection at the British Museum in London.
The British soldiers looted a collection of priceless artifacts from the Kingdom of Benin more than a century ago, some of the Benin bronzes are heading back to Nigeria with conditions attached.
The agreement represents a breakthrough for the BDG, which was formed in 2007 to address restitution claims.
The group are made of representatives of several European museums, the Royal Court of Benin, Edo State Government, and Nigeria’s National Commission for Museums and Monuments.
The returns are contingent on the timely completion of a new Royal Museum, adjacent to the Royal Palace that once housed many of the bronzes. Nigerian officials presented plans for the Museum at a BDG meeting in October. A spokesman for the Governor of Edo said that designs are being finalized in collaboration with the Royal Court of Benin.A spokesman for the British Museum said European museums would play an active role in developing an elite institution suitable for housing exhibits that are considered to be among the greatest ever African artworks.