Nigerian Contemporary Art is Being Offered in Exchange for the U.K. Benin Bronzes

The Ahiamwen Guild of artists is offering the art to the British Museum in the hopes that they'll accelerate the return process.

Some of the Benin Bronzes on display at the British Museum. Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

The Ahiamwen Guild of artists, an organization based in Nigeria’s Benin City, has offered a new method of accelerating the return of the Benin Bronzes to their country of origin: the Guild has just announced that they’d like to offer the British Museum several contemporary artworks from Benin. This offering is being made in the hopes that the gifts will encourage the British Museum to return the Benin Bronzes the institution has in its possession; the debate over these objects has been ongoing for years. Specifically, the Guild wants to give the British Museum a bronze plaque that recounts Benin’s history and a life-size ram comprised of spark plugs.

Thus far, the British Museum has only said that the question of accepting the offer and going through with the exchange was a discussion that would only take place between the institution and the Guild, but it’s certainly a generous and interesting offering from a group that owes the U.K. institution nothing at this point. “We never stopped making the bronzes even after those ones were stolen,” Osarobo Zeickner-Okoro, a founding member of the Ahiamwen Guild of artists, told Reuters. “I think we make them even better now.”

“Part of the crime that’s been committed, it’s not just ok, these were looted, it’s the fact that you’ve portrayed our civilization as a dead civilization, you’ve put us among ancient Egypt or something,” Zeickner-Okoro continued. Thus far, the British Museum has indeed been slow to return the objects, unlike other countries entirely; Germany, for example, has accelerated its talks to return the Benin Bronzes in the country to Nigeria.

In France, meanwhile endless bureaucratic dustups, diplomatic miscommunication and a dearth of funding have all thus far held up the Quai Branly museum’s purported plans to return its Benin bronzes.

Nigerian Contemporary Art is Being Offered in Exchange for the U.K. Benin Bronzes