Britain is once again reckoning with its imperial history during a week in which two ceremonies were held to mark the return of ancient looted artifacts to Nigeria from the UK.
On Wednesday, a college at the University of Cambridge staged a ceremony acknowledging the official return of a bronze statue of a cockerel to Nigeria’s National Commission for Museums and Monuments.
The cockerel, donated to the university in 1905 by the father of a student, is a Benin Bronze, looted during the 1897 British invasion of Benin city, in modern Nigeria, during which British forces burnt down the royal palace among other buildings and stole priceless artifacts.
The event at Jesus College was followed by a similar handover at the University of Aberdeen on Thursday evening where a sculpture depicting the head of a Benin king was returned to Nigeria. Elsewhere in mainland Europe, France and Germany have also taken measures to repatriate similar objects. President Emmanuel Macron was present during an event on Wednesday at the Quai Branly museum in Paris where 26 artifacts were ceremoniously returned to Benin.
These moves have put pressure on a number of academic and cultural institutions such as the British Museum, which is facing calls to return its enormous collection of bronzes, comprised of over 900 artifacts. The museum said in a statement sent to CNN that it "understands and recognizes the significance of the issues surrounding the return of objects" and remains committed to "share our collection as widely as possible."
The issue is an uncomfortable one for the museum, which is also home to other world-famous stolen artifacts, including the Parthenon Marbles, a series of ancients sculptures looted from Athens.
The British government believes that the museum is the right home for the bronzes as it makes them accessible to the largest number of people and, as a leading museum in one of the world’s most global cities, has the best facilities for their upkeep.
This is an argument that many find insulting and steeped in exactly the type of British imperial thinking that saw the artifacts looted in the first place.
"This logic suggests that Nigeria is a poorer country that in incapable of properly looking after the artifacts that colonialists stole, despite the fact there is a state-of-the-art museum awaiting them in Nigeria. It’s a classic racist argument that Britain is a place of refinement and knows best," said Kehinde Andrews, Professor of Black Studies at Birmingham City University.
Others have argued that because the Kingdom of Benin benefited from the slave trade, modern Nigeria doesn’t have the moral high ground to reclaim the artifacts are returned.
Enotie Ogbebor, a Nigerian artist and authority on the bronzes, said that as "many of the artifacts were made long before the slave trade" this is an irrelevant point. "They are part of our culture, they tell a story of our history and they were stolen. It’s quite simple."
No matter how much the British government would prefer these artifacts remain in the UK, critics say it’s already on the wrong side of history.
A parallel debate over Britain’s statues of historical colonialists and slave traders — sparked by the Black Lives Matter protests that swept the globe following George Floyd’s murder — has forced many in the UK to finally have that difficult conversation about their country’s history and the horrors of the British Empire.
Last summer, when protesters pulled down a statue of the 17th-century slave trader Edward Colston and vandalized other statues, including one of Winston Churchill, Boris Johnson fired back, calling the attack on the Churchill statue "absurd and shameful," and his government did everything it could to protect the monuments in the name of heritage — following up in March with a bill that contained measures that would make defacing statues a criminal act.
On the specific topic of the Benin Bronzes, a government spokesperson told CNN this week that museums operate "independently of the government with decisions relating to collections care and management, including whether to make loans of any objects, taken by the trustees of each institution," pointing out that the bronzes are a private collection rather than a part of the national collection.
This level of buck-passing combined with government policy that firmly backs protecting statues of colonialists in the name of heritage is frustrating for those who believe artifacts like the bronzes should be returned on the basis they were stolen goods.
"There is a new generation who will remember the theater of George Floyd protests and statues being pulled down," said S.I. Martin, author of multiple books on Britain’s colonial history and Black British history.
"It seems inconceivable that the conversation will stop at this point or that people will suddenly go back to being 100% comfortable with how these items came to be in Britain. That might force museums to act for the sake of their own relevance," he added.
For now, the British Museum is prohibited from giving its artifacts back by British law, although it is reportedly discussing possible loans to the planned Edo Museum of West African Art in Nigeria.
The decision on whether it does might hand a small symbolic victory to one side in the culture war over Britain’s colonial past. The question is, to which side will this institution, which holds so much cultural clout, give its seal of approval as the UK attempts to address its complicated, controversial history in an era of such division and anger.
Top image: Master of Jesus College Sonita Alleyne with Director General of Nigeria’s National Commission for Museums and Monuments Professor Abba Isa Tijani ahead of a ceremony at the University of Cambridge, where the looted bronze cockerel, known as the Okukur, will be returned to Nigeria.
A previous version of this article misstated where the artifacts from the Quai Branly museum in Paris are being returned to. The artifacts will be returned to Benin, in West Africa.
Queen Elizabeth II left Buckingham Palace for the last time Wednesday, her coffin borne by a horse-drawn gun carriage and trailed by grieving family members during the short journey to the Houses of Parliament, where it will lie in state until the funeral early next week.

Queen Elizabeth II's coffin is set to move in a silent procession from Buckingham Palace to Westminster Hall in central London on Wednesday, where it will lie in state until her funeral.

Queen Elizabeth II's coffin left Buckingham Palace on Wednesday for the last time in a sombre procession by past thousands of mourners on its way through central London to the Houses of Parliament.

Video shows the moment King Charles III became frustrated by a leaking pen this week, during a visit to a castle in Northern Ireland.

Household staff who served King Charles III while he was heir to the British throne have already been told they could lose their jobs, drawing criticism from a labour union that called the move 'heartless' before Queen Elizabeth is even buried.

As the U.K. welcomes a new monarch, several other nations under the Commonwealth are also welcoming a new leader to one of the world's oldest political associations. These nations in total make up 2.5 billion of the world’s population. CTVNews.ca takes a look at the 56 nations and additional territories under the monarchy.

There is still no sign of the man who murdered a Moncton teenager in the 1980s after he breached his parole and disappeared almost two weeks ago. Now, the victim's sister says she has been told she can't post a recent photo of him on social media.

A day after Justice Minister Tyler Shandro publicly directed the head of Alberta's human rights commission to quit, the commissioner’s office lobbed the issue back at him, saying it’s Shandro who does the hiring and firing.

While Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Monday, Sept. 19 will be a federal holiday and a day of mourning as Queen Elizabeth II’s funeral takes place in the U.K., Labour Minister Seamus O’Regan later clarified the designation only applies to federal government employees.

A funeral is being held today for a Milton man who was killed in a mass shooting that also left a Toronto police officer dead on Monday.

Toronto police say a book of condolences will be set up this week to allow the public to pay its respects to an officer who was shot dead in an unprovoked attack.

There is still no sign of the man who murdered a Moncton teenager in the 1980s after he breached his parole and disappeared almost two weeks ago. Now, the victim's sister says she has been told she can't post a recent photo of him on social media.

While Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Monday, Sept. 19 will be a federal holiday and a day of mourning as Queen Elizabeth II’s funeral takes place in the U.K., Labour Minister Seamus O’Regan later clarified the designation only applies to federal government employees.

Unveiling how the Liberals plan to act on affordability issues, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is promising to table legislation to implement the first phase of a national dental care plan, a top up to a housing benefit for renters, and a doubling of the federal GST rebate, at the start of the fall sitting of Parliament.

The office of Canada's interlocutor for unmarked graves at residential schools is scheduled to wrap up its first national gathering today in Edmonton.

His hand on his heart, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy watched as his country's flag was hoisted Wednesday above the recently recaptured city of Izium, a rare foray outside the capital that highlighted Moscow's embarrassing retreat in the face of a lightning Ukrainian counteroffensive.

A package exploded on the campus of Northeastern University in Boston late Tuesday, and the college said a staff member suffered minor injuries.

Russia has covertly spent more than US$300 million since 2014 to try to influence politicians and other officials in more than two dozen countries, the State Department alleges in a newly released cable.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has spent more than two decades carefully cultivating his domestic political image of a strong foreign policy strategist who can outsmart Western leaders and restore Russia to its former glory.

A third person has been arrested as part of the investigation into the assassination attempt on Argentine Vice President Cristina Fernandez — a move that suggests the incident could have involved a network of people.

As the U.K. welcomes a new monarch, several other nations under the Commonwealth are also welcoming a new leader to one of the world's oldest political associations. These nations in total make up 2.5 billion of the world’s population. CTVNews.ca takes a look at the 56 nations and additional territories under the monarchy.

Unveiling how the Liberals plan to act on affordability issues, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is promising to table legislation to implement the first phase of a national dental care plan, a top up to a housing benefit for renters, and a doubling of the federal GST rebate, at the start of the fall sitting of Parliament.

Pierre Poilievre's crushing win to become leader of the Conservative Party of Canada raises questions about the status and power of the party's social conservatives.

The federal government's newly announced inflation relief for lower-income Canadians through the GST rebate stacks up as a better policy than some of the cash payments issued by provinces, economists say.

Upending the political debate, U.S. Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham introduced a nationwide abortion ban Tuesday, sending shockwaves through both parties and igniting fresh debate on a fraught issue weeks before the midterm elections that will determine control of Congress.

A Los Angeles County resident with a compromised immune system has died from monkeypox, local health officials announced Monday. It's believed to be the first U.S. fatality from the disease.

U.S. President Joe Biden on Monday urged Americans to come together for a new 'national purpose' — his administration's effort to end cancer 'as we know it.'

Although Apple announced that the upcoming iPhone 14 and 14 Pro models in the U.S. will not have physical SIM card trays, the Canadian models will continue to support physical SIM cards.

The James Webb Space Telescope has captured spectacular images of a stellar nursery in the heart of the Orion Nebula, and the project has a very special connection to London, Ont.’s Western University.

Anyone using TikTok to learn about COVID-19, climate change or Russia's invasion of Ukraine is likely to encounter misleading information, according to a research report published Wednesday. Researchers at NewsGuard searched for content about prominent news topics on TikTok and say they found that nearly one in five of the videos automatically suggested by the platform contained misinformation.

Irene Papas, the Greek actress and recording artist renowned for her dramatic performances and austere beauty that earned her prominent roles in Hollywood movies as well as in French and Italian cinema over six decades has died. She was 93.

Jean-Luc Godard, the ingenious 'enfant terrible' of the French New Wave who revolutionized popular cinema in 1960 with his first big endeavour, 'Breathless,' and stood for years as one of the world's most vital and provocative directors, has died. He was 91.

Jurors were set to begin deliberating for a second day Wednesday at R. Kelly's federal trial in Chicago, sorting through a month of evidence and arguments on charges accusing the singer of producing child pornography, enticing minors for sex and rigging his 2008 child porn trial.

Household staff who served King Charles III while he was heir to the British throne have already been told they could lose their jobs, drawing criticism from a labour union that called the move 'heartless' before Queen Elizabeth is even buried.

A woman accompanied by activists and brandishing what she said was a toy pistol broke into a Beirut bank branch on Wednesday, taking US$13,000 from her trapped savings.

A top European Union official unveiled a plan Wednesday to cap the revenue of electricity producers that are making extraordinary profits because of the effects of Russia's war in Ukraine and climate change, saying the proposal could raise US$140 billion to help people hit by spiraling energy prices.

Toronto can now boast to being home to more than a dozen Michelin-star eateries, including a two-star sushi restaurant run by a celebrated chef previously recognized by the prestigious food guide.

Brian Bailey’s family farm a few kilometres southeast of Carberry, Man. played host to Queen Elizabeth, Prince Philip, then-Prince Charles and Princess Anne during a fateful royal visit in 1970.

Just over a dozen Toronto restaurants have been bestowed with prestigious Michelin stars—making them the first Canadian eateries to receive the global recognition.

Hockey Canada asked the federal government in 2019 if it could self-govern its safe-sport cases, despite facing a 'significant potential claim.'

Former UFC fighter Elias Theodorou died at the age of 34, with media reporting the Canadian had been battling stage 4 liver cancer.

Vasek Pospisil won his opening singles match, then teamed with Felix Auger-Aliassime to take the deciding doubles match as Canada won its opening tie at the Davis Cup Finals tennis tournament 2-1 over South Korea on Tuesday.

Formula One championship leader Max Verstappen again made light work of starting down the grid as he won the Italian Grand Prix on Sunday to leave him within touching distance of a second successive title.

Jeep will start selling two fully electric SUVs in North America and another one in Europe over the next two years.

For over a year and a half, car buyers have faced high prices and a lack of inventory at dealerships thanks to the global microchip shortage. But there are finally signs that prices in the used car market may have peaked.

CTV News Programs
Local News
© 2022 All rights reserved. Use of this Website assumes acceptance of Terms & Conditions and Privacy Policy

source

Shop Sephari