Benin Art, Masterpieces that Should be Returned to Their Place of Origin

Benin Art, Masterpieces that Should be Returned to Their Place of Origin

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The location and ownership of the art of Benin is a highly contested area that provokes strong arguments even to this day on whether or not these artworks should be returned to their place of origin. Forcibly removed during the punitive expedition of Benin in 1987. Not only do the bronzes serve as an important aspect in the oral culture of Benin but by removing the sculptures from their natural homeland it is argued that they cannot be accurately be understood out of that context (Dalton-Johnson, K ‘Cultural Encounters’ 2008, DVD Rom; see transcript p.7). Whilst others argue that displaying Benin Art in Western museums is the best way to enlighten people on the history of the Benin Kingdom and refute damaging and stereotypical images of Africa prevalent in western culture to this day (Spring, C ‘Cultural Encounters’ 2008, DVD Rom; see transcript p.9). Through an analysis

The discovery of a large selection of artworks and artefacts in Benin City following the punitive expedition in 1897 had huge implications and prompted a challenge to racist attitudes held in the west towards Africa and the nation of Benin at the time. (REFERENCE!!!).
These works of art, a mixture of carved ivory and bronze and brass sculptures ranged from the fifteenth to nineteenth centuries and some two thousand, four hundred artworks were taken to England and sold to museums, art historians, private collectors and scholars across Europe and America to pay for the expedition (Loftus, Wood, 2008 p.45). The three hundred pieces that made their way to the British Museum sparked much interest amongst Charles Hercules Read and Ormonde Maddock Dalton both noted ethnographers of the time. They were astounded by the technical brilliance and...

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...nd lack of a written record within Benin society lead to further controversy surrounding the location and ownership of the Benin artwork, as they were an important aspect in understanding Benin history. Benin oral tradition supports the notion that bronze castings would have been commissioned to commemorate former rulers or used in ceremonies (Woods, Mackie, 2008, p.12). As well as being used as mnemonic devices when relating their oral history (Woods, Mackie, 2008, p.18).

The ownership of Benin art is still a greatly contested area, and there are a number of opinions which should be looked at, on whether or not they should be returned to their place of origin. It is important to note that there has been a change in the relationship between Europe and Africa, From when Benin’s artefacts were first forcibly removed after the British invasion of Benin in 1897.

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