Looted artifacts have spiritual link to us, Benin monarch tells envoy…disclaim promoters of EMOWAA
The Benin monarch, His Royal Majesty, Oba Ewuare II has declared that Benin artifacts that were looted during British expedition of 1897 in Benin are not just mere artistic expressions but cultural objects that also bear an enormous spiritual significance to palace of the Benin people.
He made the remark when he received a delegation from the federal Republic of Germany led by the Director General for Culture and Communication in the German Foreign Ministry, Dr. Andreas Gorgen at his palace in Benin City, Edo State.
The Guests were on a fact-finding mission to the State for collaboration between the Edo State Government, Federal Government, German Government, National Commission for Museum and Monument (NCMM), and the Benin Royal Court as well as other Stakeholders towards the return of the looted objects.
In 8-point position paper of Benin Dialogue Group and Oba Ewuare II Foundation, read on the occasion by Ambassador Martins Uhomoibhi, Nigeria former Permanent Secretary, Ministry of foreign Affairs, the traditional ruler lamented “the devastation and plunder wrecked upon Benin City during the British military expedition in 1897 “should be fully acknowledged by the museums and the circumstances around the accusation of Benin objects explained on gallery panels and on the museum’s website.
The monarch who also alleged interference of meddlesome interlopers that are negotiating the return of Benin artifacts, noted that a critical part of the recommendations of the Benin Dialogue group, remain the establishment of a museum to be called “Benin Royal museum” in Benin City and not “Edo museum for West African Arts” (EMOWAA).
According to the Oba of Benin, “After the Architect Mr. David Ajaye, the British Museum and the Nigerian authorities had announced a $4 million archeology project to excavate the site of the planned Benin Royal Museum, and other parts of Benin City, to uncover ancient remains including parts of the City walls”, which he considered as a flash on the palms.
According to him, “It is worth pointing out here, that, Mr. Ajaye, the British born Ghanian Architect, now promoting the EMOWAA project, was never a member of the Benin Dialogue Group. He has also never consulted or made contact with Royal palace of Benin.
“Therefore the change of name from the original plans and concept as laid out by the Benin Dialogue group, is unacceptable as it was unilaterally conceived. Given the fact that there already exist a structure – The Oba Ewuare II Foundation, we believe that it is superfluous and totally unnecessary to create the Legacy Restoration Trust (LRT) and the proposed EMOWAA to take custody and manage the returned Benin looted artifacts”, he said.
“It is crystal clear that therefore, a critical part of the recommendations of the Benin dialogue group, remain the establishment of museum to be called “Benin Royal Museum”, in Benin City and not Edo Museum for West Africa Arts” (EMOWAA). In fact, a one time Director General of National Commission for Museum and Monument visited Benin City, with a proposed design which has not seen the light of day.
‘An initio, and as a matter of fact, the EMOWAA is a clear deviation from the original plan for the Benin royal museum.
The Oba of Benin pledged to work with the German Government and thanked the delegation for the visit and their insight since the painstaking efforts began several ago.
He emphasized that he knows the sensitivity of this matter. “I already know how my people are feeling about third party interference”.
Responding, the Director General for Culture and Communication in the German Foreign Ministry, Dr. Andreas Gorgen, said the German Government has acknowledged the looting of Benin artefacts and is committed to its return and restoration.
He also thanked the Government and people of Nigeria for their cooperation towards the return of the objects back to the original owners.
High point was the exchange of gifts between the monarch and the German delegation.