In 1897, a British military expedition looted thousands of valuable artworks from the Kingdom of Benin. Now, 120 years later, the saga of the seized West African art continues. As Ben Quinn reports for The Observer, European museums have announced they will hold a summit to discuss what to do with the treasures next year.
In the 19th century, the Kingdom of Benin, which is now part of Nigeria, was a trading partner with the United Kingdom, but the British resented the kingdom’s independence, which included setting customs duties for trade. After an attempt by a small British force to overthrow Benin’s ruler resulted in a massacre of the British soldiers, the United Kingdom sent a large “punitive expedition” to the west African country to crush it. The soldiers burned Benin City and took everything of value they could to ship back home. read more