Africa Takes a Stand for the Stolen Treasures of the Motherland
Chokwe (DRC) mask in the National Museum of African Art, Washington | The Guardian Nigeria

Africa Takes a Stand for the Stolen Treasures of the Motherland

Over the past years, many African nations have called onto their former colonial masters. 

The call is to return precious artefacts transported overseas at a former time. 

A vast sea of African wealth lies in museums all over Europe and deserves to be back in their rightful places. Most of the artefacts in question were either stolen or sold off illegally to museums or private owners in Europe.

Leading the pack is the nation of Nigeria which is preparing to build a museum big enough to house and protect all of its stolen treasures from Benin City, Edo State.

According to Godwin Obaseki, the governor of Edo State; there are on-going discussions with the Benin Monarch, Oba Ewuare II. The talks are to address the building of a world-class royal museum in the palace.

Nigerian has been calling for the return of 4,000 ivory and bronze artefacts that the British looted from present-day southern Nigeria in 1897.

“The decision to establish a world-class museum at the Oba’s Palace, one of the safest places in the world, will encourage curators across Europe and in other parts of the world, to be confident enough to support the advocacy for the safe return of stolen artefacts of the Benin Kingdom,” Obaseki said.

The artefacts are said to be returned in three years.

Still, many holders of these artefacts either deny or simply ignore these calls. European holders have used security issues as lead reason in their refusals to return what is owed.

More specifically to the country of Tanzania that has called for the return of the bones of the Brachiosaurus brancai. The bones were unearthed between 1909 and 1913 from 100 different sites in Tendaguru.

Since then, the Brachiosaurus brancai bones have resided in Berlin, Germany where they have been for the last 80 years.

According to Gaudence Milanzi, the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism (MNRT) for Tanzania; chances of the bones returning at this moment in time are very slim.

Engineer Ramo Makani, deputy minister of the MNRT, however, said that the government is pushing to get benefits for the presence of the dinosaur in Berlin.

Pressure to return large collections back to Africa has been put on countries like Germany, France, and The United Kingdom.

The Washington Post reports that some museums are offering to loan the artefacts back to their countries of origin for limited periods of time as opposed to actually returning them.


However the French seem to be listening to the plight of Africa,

“I want the conditions to be created within five years for the temporary or permanent return of Africa’s heritage to Africa,” the French president said.

The change in policy from the French could be a signal that Europe is ready to face the music and give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar.

The displacement of these historic art pieces, unfortunately, embodies the colonial era and serves as a reminder of its occurrence. To play the devil’s advocate in the matter one has to point out that the resistance is slightly warranted. 

How safe is it to transport millions of art worth to the politically unstable countries of Africa?

Nigeria, on the other hand, is a great example of how African can better itself and be able to take its property.


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