Imagine someone sees your expensive outfit. Rips it off your body. Puts it on and says they should wear it because it looks better on them. Then proceeds to pass that outfit on from generation to generation instead of giving it back to the original owners. To add insult to injury, as years go by, the original owners ask for it back and the thieves say it’s no longer yours, technically, because it’s been so long.
Well, you don’t have to imagine much cause you guessed it. This happened in real life. Not once. Not twice. Not even thrice because if there was one thing the British are gonna do? They are gonna steal and make it known.
This is why I can’t stand Elizabeth Alexandra Mary Windsor. Yeah, I’m not gonna even call her the Queen because that would imply that I respect her, her title and her existence. When I, in fact, don’t. Elizabeth died on September 8, 2022, without doing anything to return the cultural property of numerous African tribes stolen by the British Empire. Instead she chose to earn a profit by glorifying past British atrocities.
This theft is why the British Museum is a self-righteous gross display of power, stolen cultural property and tragedy. This museum has numerous stolen artifacts, they refuse to give back. Many of which they have openly admitted to stealing shamefully.
Don’t be confused. These countries are asking for their artifacts back. Many countries are currently in a decades-long battle fighting to have their property returned.
For example, in late 2018, Nigeria and the U.K. reached an agreement for the British Museum to return certain preselected brozens to Nigeria by 2021. For decades, Nigeria has requested the U.K to return their Benin Bronzes. Before you get too excited, let me finish. The British Museum then went on to insist they were merely lending the sculptures. They expect the goods they stole from Nigeria to be returned to the British Museum. Yeah, you read that correctly. My goodness, have you ever heard of a thief being able to request how to keep what they stole?
I’m going to provide a little back story on how the British stole these bronzes. During the Benin Expedition of 1897, British troops stole over 4,000 sculptures after invading the former Kingdom of Benin, now located in southwestern Nigeria. “The [Benin] kingdom is perhaps best known for its impressive brass sculptures and plaques which frequently depict rulers and their family; they are considered amongst the finest artworks ever produced in Africa,” according to the World History Encyclopedia. For people who really love to push the narrative that Africa was nothing before they got there the British managed to know exactly where to find thousands of valuable pieces to steal and keep in their museums.
Over a century later, more than 1,000 surviving stolen bronzes are in the United Kingdom, Germany, Austria and the United States museums, with the British Museum having the most valuable collection. You will notice that I listed multiple countries but did you see Nigeria anywhere in that list? No, because for some illogical reason, the bronzes are not in Nigeria, their country of origin.
Whenever I want to remember how foolish the British government is, I remember what the British Culture Secretary, Oliver Dowden, said. He said that the Benin Bronzes should “properly reside in the British Museum” and then proceeded to say that Nigeria and Britain should share the bronzes. This suggestion is absolutely hilarious because, even in the interview, he refused to say the bronzes were stolen and kept saying they were “acquired.” I wonder if it’s hard for him to wake up and know that his brain has the ability to produce such nonsense. I pity him.
African governments are actively working for the return of their property but European fools, sorry, I mean authorities, continue to refute claims for return on the basis that they can not determine who the original owners were. According to Abba Isa Tijani, the Director General of Nigeria’s National Commission for Museums and Monuments, another excuse was that the African countries did not have the ability to manage the returned artifacts properly.
If something is my own, it shouldn’t matter whether I break it, eat it, sh*t on it, burn it because it is mine. The British have no right to tell African government’s that they fear the mishandling of the artifacts cause how do they know they’ve been taking care of them the right way? These pieces were integral to African cultures and traditions with purpose only know by African themselves with these artifacts playing an integral part.
These weren’t just meaningless pieces made by so-called primitive and savage individuals. These bronzes are highly developed pieces that are a part of African culture and history. These pieces are a part of ancestral altars that represent kings and queen mothers of the Edo people and the people of Benin. These stolen pieces even kept historical records of the kingdom.
Enotie Ogbebor, a Nigerian artist and authority on the bronzes, said, “They are part of our culture, they tell a story of our history and they were stolen. It’s quite simple.” The British’s inability to see these pieces as more than pretty and delicate objects is disgusting.
Nigeria has been able to work with institutions in the United States, Germany, Ireland and Britain, including the University of Aberdeen, the Church of England, the Fowler Museum in Los Angeles, the National Museum of Ireland and Berlin Ethnologisches Museum, to navigate the returns. The British Museum stubbornly stands on the belief that monuments and contested objects should be kept by them but contextualized. Whatever that means.
According to Al Jazeera, the British Museum Act of 1963 and the National Heritage Act of 1983 prohibit British institutions from returning their collections despite the fact that it has been required for European state-owned institutions to make new laws allowing the return of their stolen collections. The U.K. government has no plans to change those regulations to permit repatriation despite such laws already being legalized in France and Germany.
At the height of the British Empire, they ruled over 412 million people. I wanna put that number into perspective. Their empire was over 33,700,000 km2 (13,012,000 sq mi). This is almost a quarter of the Earth’s total land area.
Britain has the opportunity to help heal the nations that have suffered at the hand of their dominance. Yet, they choose to stand behind undignified policies and practices that justify and further defend their atrocities.