Nana Oforiatta Ayim and Barnaby Phillips: Returning the Loot
124 years ago, the British government sent 1,200 soldiers and sailors to invade the Kingdom of Benin in West Africa. This was just one of many so-called 'Punitive Expeditions' launched across the continent by the British Empire. Benin’s soldiers, armed only with muskets, were no match for British weaponry and the terror it created.
The British exiled the Oba (King), annexed his territory and stole thousands of cultural and sacred objects – including bronze plaques, casts and ivory figures – which would collectively become known as the ‘Benin Bronzes’. These can now be found in some 160 museums and many private collections, primarily in Europe and North America, and are at the centre of international conversations and negotiations about what museums should do with objects taken by force during colonial times. They are also part of a broader discussion across Africa about reparation and repair, promoting local artists and ‘living artefacts’, and breaking with the Western model of museums.
Join writer, art historian, filmmaker and founder of Accra’s ANO Institute of Arts and Knowledge, Nana Oforiatta Ayim, and journalist and author of 'Loot; Britain and the Benin Bronzes', Barnaby Phillips as they speak with writer and cultural critic Fiammetta Rocco about restitution and cultural revival.