Help the Guardian locate Benin bronze statues in the UK

Molly Blackall @mollyblackall and the Guardian Community @Gdntakepart are appealing for people to help us locate Benin bronze statues in the UK, which are products of the British Empire’s 1897 punitive expedition to (invasion, massacre, devastation and plunder of) the Benin Kingdom (where is now Nigeria). Information can be supplied in encrypted forms, either on the same page as the article or on another.

The Guardian is crowdsourcing information about the provenance – the acquisition, extraction and collection – of the loot:

Objects in national collections including the British Museum and the V&A cannot be returned to their countries of origin because they are protected by the Heritage Act. However, little is known about how many Benin Bronzes are held in smaller institutions outside of the capital that are not covered by the legislation.

As an obvious minor aside, legislation should not prevent the restitution or return of cultural property that has been violently extracted. Cultural heritage institutions should petition and campaign for reform of the law to enable the end of their retention of such property, which is a perpetuation of a violation of human rights (and which is politically self-defeating for the UK in terms of diplomacy, as well as socially and economically harmful to the victimised communities and societies).

Academics believe that hundreds of items taken during the expedition are held in city museums, art galleries, universities and in private collections all over the UK.

We’d like to start locating these objects, and mapping their journeys to Britain – and we need your help.

Share your stories
Do you know of an organisation which holds Benin bronzes? If so, we’d like you to tell us where you’ve seen the artefact, what it is and what you know about its history.

To contribute, fill out the encrypted form below – only the Guardian will see your responses. You can also get in touch via WhatsApp by clicking here or adding the contact +44(0)7867825056. Leave contact details if you can as one of our journalists may be in touch to discuss further.

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