Nigerian Artist Emeka Ogboh has launched a poster campaign that seeks to create awareness around the long-running discussion about the restitution of Benin sculptures looted by British troops and on display in museums all over Europe and North America.
His posters, on public display in Dresden and towns nearby, show images of Benin bronzes in Dresden’s Museum für Völkerkunde with the text “Missing in Benin.” Emeka Ogboh was commissioned to create the posters by the museum, which possesses five Benin bronzes bought in London between 1899 and 1904.
While talking to TheArtNewspaper he said, “The reparation dialogue to date has been ineffective in returning the artefacts to their original home of Benin, Nigeria.”
The campaign stems from “a sense of impatience and necessity” and aims “to frame the stagnant and abstract discourse surrounding colonial reparations with the urgency and gravity of a public service announcement,”
Dresden’s State Art Collections are part of the Benin Dialogue Group, whose members also include the British Museum and Berlin’s Ethnological Museum. The museums in the group have pledged to “contribute from their collections on a rotating basis” to a future Royal Museum in Benin City. But none has so far committed to a timetable for permanent repatriation of the looted sculptures.
“No one is exempt from the repercussions of colonialism and as long as issues of agency, ownership, and freedom continue to exist, society must act as a whole to repatriate artefacts that are simply not theirs,” Ogboh told Newsartnet.
In 2009 Nigeria’s ambassador to Germany wrote to Angel Merkel requesting the art pieces be returned to Benin city among many other works of art in German museums. He believes Germany would be taking a necessary step towards healing the tragic trauma of colonialism by facilitating the restitution of these artefacts.