By Osaigbovo Iguobaro, Benin
The Director Emerita of the Smithsonian National Museum of African Arts, Dr. Johnetta Cole, has justified the non-repatriation over 3000 “stolen artifacts forcefully taken to Europe and America during the British invasion of Benin in 1897”.
Her comment was in response to an appeal made by the Director-General, National Commission for Museums and monuments in Nigeria, Mr. Yusuf Abdullah Usman, during the grand opening of the National Museum Benin City exhibition gallery at the Weekend which was attended by Mr. John Bray, the US Consul-General to Nigeria, Lagos.
The Benin monarch, Oba Ewuare II, had also made the same request when he received the American Ambassador to Nigeria, Ambassador Stuart Symington who led a delegation of Smithsonian National Museum of African Arts, and Dr. Johnetta Cole to his palace before the event begun.
Cole said: “Now I say to my sisters and brothers, if every work of African art is returned to Africa, how the rest of the world will know of your art, know of your culture, know of your history? I cannot speak for the British Museum; I cannot speak for the Museum in Belgium or the Museum in Amsterdam.
“But, I can speak for my Museum to tell you that it is with enormous respect that we document where every work has come from.
“We are doing everything in our power to use that art to tell your (Africans) story. Thank you”, she said.
According to her, “we have for example tow NOK figures in our Museum. We went to the government of Mali and we said here are two extra – ordinary expressions antiquities. We do not know where they came from. We said we were prepared to send them to you (Mali’s government) and we were told by the Mali government thank you”.
Earlier, the Director-General, National Commission for Museums and monuments in Nigeria, Mr. Yusuf Abdullah Usman, commended the United States of America for supporting 850 graduates across 125 Countries including Nigeria.
The Curator, the Benin National Museum, Theophilus Omogbai, commended the US government for helping to refurbish the Museum which he assured would help to strengthen families bond and further engage the public on Benin culture and tradition.