A group of major cultural institutions in the UK and Europe, including the British Museum, will meet in the Netherlands next year to finalise plans for a permanent display in Nigeria of objects seized from the Benin kingdom in the late 19th century. The museum consortium, known as the Benin Dialogue Group, is seeking a way to end decades of wrangling over the estimated 4,000 bronze and ivory artefacts looted by the British army from what is now southern Nigeria as part of a punitive expedition in 1897. Since the 1960s, Nigeria has repeatedly called for their repatriation.

The works were dispersed among museums and private collections in Europe and North America, with the largest numbers going to the Ethnological Museum in Berlin (part of the future Humboldt Forum) and the British Museum. In March, representatives from both institutions attended a meeting at the University of Cambridge of the Benin Dialogue Group, which is laying the foundations for a system of rotating loans to Benin City. The meeting was led by Prince Gregory Akenzua (Enogie of Evbobanosa) of the Benin royal family and attended by four representatives of Nigeria’s National Commission for Museums and Monuments.

The group, formed in 2007, has begun to formulate an action plan “towards the establishment of a permanent display in Benin City”, a university spokesman says. Its members (see below) discussed fundraising to support appropriate conservation and security conditions for the objects in Benin City as well as a legal framework that will ensure their immunity from seizure in Nigeria. Read more