Glasgow takes further steps to retun Nigeria’s cultural artefacts

Glasgow Life, Scotland, has taken another step forward in its efforts to return more than 50 cultural artefacts to the descendants of their rightful owners, the largest-ever repatriation of objects from a single collection in Scotland.

This is contained in a statement signed by the Director-General, National Commission for Museum and Monument (NCMM), Prof. Abba Tijani and the Glasgow Communication Officer, Jonathon Reilly.

The statement was made available to the News Agency of Nigeria on Tuesday.

It stated that Glasgow Life, which managed the city’s museum collections, welcomed a delegation from Nigeria’s NCMM to Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum.

It added that the aim was to discuss the repatriation of 19 Benin objects.

It stated that Tijani and Babatunde Adebiyi, the NCMM’s Legal Adviser, were invited to the city to discuss the transfer of ownership and future dates for the return of the artefacts.

It stated that the meeting was arranged after Glasgow City Council’s City Administration Committee approved a recommendation made in April by the cross-party working group for repatriation and Spoliation.

It added that the group requested for the return of 51 items to Nigeria, India and the Cheyenne River and Oglala Sioux Tribes in South Dakota, U.S.

“Glasgow Life Museums has been working on the repatriation of the Benin bronzes since it was established,” it stated.

NAN reports that the artefacts acquired as gifts, bequests and from auction houses, were taken from sacred sites and ceremonial buildings during the British Punitive Expedition of 1897.

According to the statement, Duncan Dornan, Head of Museums and Collections at Glasgow Life, said the visit to Glasgow by the NCMM delegation marked an important milestone for the city.

itHe said it continued its positive history of repatriation by returning the Benin bronzes to their rightful owners.

“Glasgow Life Museums is committed to being transparent about such artefacts’ origins and how they came into the city’s possession.

“The meeting with the NCMM delegation presented an opportunity to build on the international relationships we have already developed, and lay solid foundations for the next stages of repatriation.

“By addressing past wrongs, we believe the returns will help to strengthen existing relations with these descendant communities,” he said.

Also, Mrs Christy Bailie, the Chair of Glasgow Life, said it was an honour to host delegates from the NCMM in Glasgow for informative talks on how the city could best support the return of the cherished artefacts.

“Glasgow has led repatriation efforts in the UK since 1999, when the city handed back the Lakota Sacred Ghost Dance shirt to the Wounded Knee Survivors’ Association.

“We have since engaged with partners around the world to find a respectful and constructive outcome for all parties, and this latest round of conversations will play a pivotal part in helping the city to fulfil this agreement.

“Glasgow is also working with the High Commission of India in London, representing the Government of India and the Archaeological Survey of India, to return seven Indian antiquities.

“This is a decision which is the first of its kind for a UK museums service.

“Six of the artefacts were stolen from temples and shrines in different states in Northern India during the 19th century, while the seventh was illegally purchased as a result of theft from the owner.

“All seven objects were gifted to Glasgow’s museum collections,” she said.

She added that 25 Lakota cultural items sold and donated to Glasgow’s museums by George Crager, an interpreter for the Buffalo Bill Wild West Show that visited the city in 1892, would be handed back to South Dakota-based descendants of the late Marcella LeBeau.

“LeBeau is a Lakota elder, politician, nurse and military veteran who died last year.

“Some of these objects were taken from the Wounded Knee Massacre site following the battle of December 1890.

“Others were personal items belonging to named ancestors or ceremonial artefacts, all of the items embody the belief, history and values of the Oceti Sakowin,” she said. (NAN)

•PHOTO: Cultural artefacts