UK museum agrees to return looted Benin Bronzes to Nigeria

UK museum agrees to return looted Benin Bronzes to Nigeria
The museum said that it would transfer a collection of 72 items to the Nigerian government. (Twitter/@HornimanMuseum)
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Updated 07 August 2022

UK museum agrees to return looted Benin Bronzes to Nigeria

UK museum agrees to return looted Benin Bronzes to Nigeria
  • The decision comes following a consultation with community members, artists and schoolchildren in Nigeria and the U.K

LONDON: A London museum agreed Sunday to return a collection of Benin Bronzes looted in the late 19th century from what is now Nigeria as cultural institutions throughout Britain come under pressure to repatriate artifacts acquired during the colonial era.
The Horniman Museum and Gardens in southeast London said that it would transfer a collection of 72 items to the Nigerian government. The decision comes after Nigeria’s National Commission for Museums and Monuments formally asked for the artifacts to be returned earlier this year and following a consultation with community members, artists and schoolchildren in Nigeria and the UK, the museum said.
“The evidence is very clear that these objects were acquired through force, and external consultation supported our view that it is both moral and appropriate to return their ownership to Nigeria,’’ Eve Salomon, chair of the museum’s board of trustees, said in a statement. “The Horniman is pleased to be able to take this step, and we look forward to working with the NCMM to secure longer term care for these precious artifacts.’’
The Horniman’s collection is a small part of the 3,000 to 5,000 artifacts taken from the Kingdom of Benin in 1897 when British soldiers attacked and occupied Benin City as Britain expanded its political and commercial influence in West Africa. The British Museum alone holds more than 900 objects from Benin, and National Museums Scotland has another 74. Others were distributed to museums around the world.
The artifacts include plaques, animal and human figures, and items of royal regalia made from brass and bronze by artists working for the royal court of Benin. The general term Benin Bronzes is sometimes applied to items made from ivory, coral, wood and other materials as well as the metal sculptures.
Countries including Nigeria, Egypt and Greece, as well indigenous peoples from North America to Australia, are increasingly demanding the return of artifacts and human remains amid a global reassessment of colonialism and the exploitation of local populations.
Nigeria and Germany recently signed a deal for the return of hundreds of Benin Bronzes. That followed French President Emmanuel Macron’s decision last year to sign over 26 pieces known as the Abomey Treasures, priceless artworks of the 19th century Dahomey kingdom in present-day Benin, a small country that sits just west of Nigeria.
But British institutions have been slower to respond.
Nigeria’s Federal Ministry of Information and Culture formally asked the British Museum to return its Benin Bronzes in October of last year.
The museum said Sunday that it is working with a number of partners in Nigeria and it is committed to a “thorough and open investigation” of the history of the Benin artifacts and the looting of Benin City.
“The museum is committed to active engagement with Nigerian institutions concerning the Benin Bronzes, including pursuing and supporting new initiatives developed in collaboration with Nigerian partners and colleagues,” the British Museum says on its website.
The Horniman Museum also traces its roots to the Age of Empire.
The museum opened in 1890, when tea merchant Frederick Horniman opened his collection of artifacts from around the world for public viewing.
Amid the Black Lives Matter movement, the museum embarked on a “reset agenda,’’ that sought to “address long-standing issues of racism and discrimination within our history and collections, and a determination to set ourselves on a more sustainable course for the future.’’
The museum’s website acknowledges that Frederick Horniman’s involvement in the Chinese tea trade meant he benefitted from low prices due to Britain’s sale of opium in China and the use of poorly compensated and sometimes forced labor.
The Horniman also recognizes that it holds items “obtained through colonial violence.”
These include the Horniman’s collection of Benin Bronzes, comprising 12 brass plaques, as well as a brass cockerel altar piece, ivory and brass ceremonial objects, brass bells and a key to the king’s palace. The bronzes are currently displayed along with information acknowledging their forced removal from Benin City and their contested status.
“We recognize that we are at the beginning of a journey to be more inclusive in our stories and our practices, and there is much more we need to do,” the museum says on its website. “This includes reviewing the future of collections that were taken by force or in unequal transactions.”


Myanmar junta leader not invited to ASEAN summit: Cambodia

Myanmar junta leader not invited to ASEAN summit: Cambodia
Updated 12 sec ago

Myanmar junta leader not invited to ASEAN summit: Cambodia

Myanmar junta leader not invited to ASEAN summit: Cambodia
  • ASEAN has led diplomatic efforts to resolve the turmoil that has gripped Myanmar since the military seized power last year

PHNOM PENH: Myanmar’s junta leader has not been invited to a regional summit next month, host Cambodia said Wednesday, in a fresh diplomatic snub for the isolated military regime.
The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) has led diplomatic efforts to resolve the turmoil that has gripped Myanmar since the military seized power last year.
But there has been little progress on a “five-point consensus” agreed with the junta, and its leader and ministers have been shut out of recent meetings of the 10-member regional bloc.
Linking the invitation to “progress in the implementation of the Five-Point Consensus,” a Cambodian foreign ministry spokesman said the junta had been invited to “nominate a non-political representative for the upcoming ASEAN Summits.”
This means junta chief Min Aung Hlaing would not be allowed to attend, just as his top diplomat was barred from foreign ministers’ gatherings in Phnom Penh in February and August.
The five-point plan, agreed in April last year, calls for an immediate end to violence and dialogue between the military and the anti-coup movement.
There is growing dissatisfaction within ASEAN — sometimes criticized as a toothless talking shop — at the Myanmar generals’ stonewalling.
The junta’s execution of four prisoners in July, in defiance of widespread international calls for clemency, caused further anger.
August’s meeting of ASEAN foreign ministers ended with a rare condemnation from the bloc for the junta’s actions.
The ministers said they were “deeply disappointed by the limited progress in and lack of commitment of the Naypyidaw authorities to the timely and complete implementation of the five-point consensus.”
ASEAN’s own envoy tasked with brokering peace has admitted the scale of the task, saying “even Superman cannot solve” the crisis.
The regional bloc’s snub comes as Washington attempts to exert more pressure on the junta through the United Nations, following outrage over an air strike that killed 11 schoolchildren last month.
US State Department counsellor Derek Chollet held talks with other governments and with representatives of the self-declared National Unity Government — dominated by ousted civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi’s party — during the UN General Assembly earlier this month.
Myanmar is planning fresh elections in August next year, but Chollet warned there was “no chance” they could be free and fair.
The junta has justified its power grab pointing to alleged fraud in the 2020 elections, which Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy party won easily.
A military crackdown on dissent in the wake of the coup has left more than 2,300 civilians dead, according to a local monitoring group.
The junta, meanwhile, says the uprising against its rule has left almost 3,900 of its supporters dead.


IAEA head Rafael Grossi may visit Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant again

IAEA head Rafael Grossi may visit Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant again
Updated 29 min 56 sec ago

IAEA head Rafael Grossi may visit Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant again

IAEA head Rafael Grossi may visit Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant again
  • Rafael Grossi would continue discussing the creation of a ‘safety zone’ around the facility

MOSCOW: International Atomic Energy Agency head Rafael Grossi said on Wednesday that he may visit Ukraine’s Russian-controlled Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant again, Russian state-owned news agency TASS reported.
TASS reported Grossi, who headed an IAEA delegation to the plant last month, as saying that he would continue discussing the creation of a “safety zone” around the facility.


Ethiopian government accepts African Union invitation to peace talks

Ethiopian government accepts African Union invitation to peace talks
Updated 05 October 2022

Ethiopian government accepts African Union invitation to peace talks

Ethiopian government accepts African Union invitation to peace talks
  • Senior official: African Union invitation consistent with the ‘need to have talks without preconditions’

NAIROBI: The Ethiopian government on Wednesday accepted an invitation by the African Union to hold peace talks in South Africa this weekend with rival Tigray forces, the national security adviser said.
Redwan Hussein, the national security adviser to Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, said on Twitter that the AU invitation was consistent with the “need to have talks without preconditions.”


Indonesian president Joko Widodo to order stadium audit to find ‘root’ of disaster

Indonesian president Joko Widodo to order stadium audit to find ‘root’ of disaster
Updated 05 October 2022

Indonesian president Joko Widodo to order stadium audit to find ‘root’ of disaster

Indonesian president Joko Widodo to order stadium audit to find ‘root’ of disaster
  • Joko Widodo: ‘I will order the public works minister to audit all stadiums used for the (football) league’

MALANG, Indonesia: Indonesian President Joko Widodo said Wednesday that he would order an audit of all football stadiums, vowing to find the “root” cause of one of the deadliest disasters in the sport’s history.
“I want to know the root of the problem that caused this tragedy so that we can get the best solution. I will order the public works minister to audit all stadiums used for the (football) league,” he said outside a hospital during a visit to the city where a stadium stampede killed at least 131 people Saturday.
Widodo said that football’s world governing body FIFA may help address management of the sport in Indonesia, having discussed the issue with FIFA President Gianni Infantino after the deadly stampede.


Vladimir Putin signs laws annexing four Ukrainian regions

Vladimir Putin signs laws annexing four Ukrainian regions
Updated 05 October 2022

Vladimir Putin signs laws annexing four Ukrainian regions

Vladimir Putin signs laws annexing four Ukrainian regions
  • Documents were published on a Russian government website on Wednesday morning
  • Move finalizes the annexation carried out in defiance of international law

KYIV: Russian President Vladimir Putin has signed laws absorbing four Ukrainian regions into Russia, a move that finalizes the annexation carried out in defiance of international law.

The documents were published on a Russian government website on Wednesday morning.

Earlier this week, both houses of the Russian parliament ratified treaties making the Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia regions part of Russia. The formalities followed Kremlin-orchestrated “referendums” in the four regions that Ukraine and the West have rejected as a sham.

The move comes as Moscow’s war in Ukraine has entered a new, more dangerous phase. Russia faces mounting setbacks on the battlefield, with Ukrainian forces retaking more and more land in the east and in the south — the very regions Moscow has pushed to annex.

The borders of the territories Russia is claiming still remain unclear, but the Kremlin has vowed to defend Russia’s territory — the newly absorbed regions, too — with any means at its disposal, including nuclear weapons.

Ukrainain President Volodymyr Zelensky responded to the annexation by announcing a fast-track application to join NATO and formally ruling out talks with Russia. Zelensky’s decree, released Tuesday, declares that holding negotiations with Putin has become impossible after his decision to take over the four regions of Ukraine.

On the battlefield on Wednesday morning, multiple explosions rocked Bila Tserkva, setting off fires at what were described as infrastructure facilities in the city to the south of the capital Kyiv, regional leader Oleksiy Kuleba said on Telegram.

Early indications are that the city was attacked by so-called “kamikaze” or suicide drones, he said.

Bila Tserkva is about 80 kilometers south of Kyiv.

Russia has increasingly been using suicide drones in recent weeks, posing a new challenge to Ukrainian defenses. The unmanned vehicles can stay aloft for long periods of time before diving into their targets and detonating their payload at the last moment.

Many of the earlier attacks by the Iranian-made drones happened in the south of the country and not near the capital, which hasn’t been targeted for weeks.

In a later post, Kuleba said that a total of six Shahed-136 drones struck the city, one of the largest in the region after Kyiv itself. One person was injured in the attacks.

Dozens of rescue workers were on the scene and still working to extinguish the fires hours after the attacks were reported, he said.

Ukrainian forces, in the meantime, continued to make gains in the south. Kyiv’s military said Wednesday they have recaptured more villages in the Kherson region as a part of their massive counteroffensive effort.

Operational Command South said that the Ukrainian flag has been raised above Liubymivka, Khreschenivka, Zolota Balka, Biliaivka, Ukrainka, Velyka and Mala Oleksandrivka villages.