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Church of England to Return 2 Benin Bronzes to Nigeria After 40 Years (Photo)

The Church of England has agreed to return two Benin Bronzes to Nigeria after 40 years.

 According to UK-based Evening Standard, the bronze statues were gifted to the Archbishop of Canterbury by the former governor of the defunct Bendel State, Ambrose Alli, and the University of Nigeria, Nsukka (UNN) in 1982. 

Lambeth Palace said in a statement that the two bronze busts will be donated to Digital Benin, an international project to digitally network the globally dispersed works of art from the former Kingdom of Benin plundered by British troops in 1897. 

“We are currently in discussions with the Edo Museum of West African Art (EMOWAA), via the Legacy Restoration Trust, to arrange this,” the statement read. 

The busts are expected to eventually make their way back to Edo State through the Digital Benin project set to launch in 2022. The announcement follows the recent decision of the University of Aberdeen to return to Nigeria a Benin bronze sculpture stolen over a century ago. 

The bronze sculpture depicting an Oba of Benin was acquired by the university in 1957, decades after it was looted. The university said the theft of the sculpture was one of the most notorious examples of the pillaging of cultural treasures associated with 19th century European colonial expansion. 

There have been calls over recent years to have African artifacts transported abroad via colonial exploitation or illegal looting returned to the continent, but success has been rare.

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