NEW York's Metropolitan Museum of Art has decided to return three works of Nigerian art as part of a push to repatriate foreign artefacts.
Two 16th-century brass plaques and a 14th-century brass head, depicting a warrior chief and junior court official, and all part of the Benin Bronze collection, will be returned to Nigeria.
They were originally looted from the Nigerian Royal Palace in the Kingdom of Benin while it was under British occupation in 1897.
After being housed in the British Museum for half a century, the two brass plaques were returned – along with 24 others – to Nigeria’s National Museum in 1950.
It remains unclear how they made their way to New York.
Despite being repatriated, “The two plaques entered the international art market at an unknown date and under unclear circumstances and were eventually acquired by a New York collector,” the Met said in a statement.
Though when the British first returned them in 1950 they had been stolen, this time round the artefacts were legitimately bequeathed to the museum by a private collector.
“The Met is pleased to have initiated the return of these works and is committed to transparency and the responsible collecting of cultural property,” the museum said in a statement.
Max Hollein, Marina Kellen French Director of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, said: “The retention of these works within Nigeria’s National Collections is critical to the well-being of the museum community and to fostering ongoing cooperation and dialogue between The Met and our Nigerian counterparts.”
Nigerian Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, said: “Nigeria enjoins other museums to take a cue from this. The art world can be a better place if every possessor of cultural artefacts considers the rights and feelings of the dispossessed.”