Approximately a year after French senators approved a bill guaranteeing that the country would return its stronghold of Benin bronzes to their country of origin, the Musée du quai Branly is hosting a final exhibition of the objects. The exhibition includes various figurines and interesting ceremonial visages, a royal throne and ceremonial hatchets; the exhibition will stand open for only five days. After the show concludes, 26 Benin items held within the Quai Branly will be returned to their country of origin, but this represents only a partial restitution.
Given the fact that France has promised to return this limited amount of items, the country of Benin is now requesting that other items be returned, including a statue of the war and iron god Ogun and other cultural artifacts. Back in 2020, the French senators who solidified the restitution bill were careful to specify that the return of the limited amount of objects to Benin and Senegal is exceptional, shouldn’t be misinterpreted as the beginning of a grand-scale return of African objects. Nevertheless, Benin’s representatives are still very much interested in accelerating the accumulation of objects that have been looted from the country.
“The French know that 26 works do not represent all our requests,” Benin culture minister Jean-Michel Abimbola said. Meanwhile, the the Metropolitan Museum of Art announced earlier this year that it will be returning two Benin Bronzes, 16th century brass plaques, Warrior Chief and Junior Court Official; and one 14th century brass plaque, Ife Head, to Nigeria. In an attempt to see more items returned, Nigeria’s Benin City’s Ahiamwen Guild of artists also recently offered a new method of accelerating the return of the Benin Bronzes to their country of origin: they’d like to offer the British Museum several contemporary artworks from Benin in exchange for the Bronzes.