Read our full statement here:
Our approach to the return of Benin bronzes
In 2017, the University of Cambridge hosted a meeting of the Benin Dialogue Group (BDG), which brings together European museums and representatives of the Government of Nigeria and the Royal Court of Benin. Since then, the University’s Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology (MAA) has supported the BDG commitment to returning work to a major new museum in development in Benin City.
In 2019, MAA, and the University of Cambridge Museums consortium, developed a new framework for the return of artefacts.* The policy notes that consideration will be given to whether artefacts were ‘appropriated in the aftermath of violence, for example in the context of a colonial intrusion or war’.
Over recent years, MAA staff have visited Benin City, and Benin representatives have visited Cambridge. A planned visit by Benin representative, Enotie Ogbebor, to study MAA collections was deferred following the Coronavirus lockdown, but will be rescheduled in due course. No claim has yet been made for the return of Benin works from MAA, but it is anticipated that a proposal to return artefacts will in due course be made and considered through the process set out in the policy. Given the published criteria, it is anticipated that the claim would be supported and steps taken to return the artefacts.
Professor Nicholas Thomas, Director of the MAA, said: “The dialogue over the last few years between MAA curators and colleagues in Nigeria has been extraordinarily rewarding. We welcome the opportunities this process presents, as a university museum committed to working internationally, in partnership.”