Bristol City Council has given a hint that it will return the stolen Benin bronze to West Africa. The sculpture was stolen in Benin in 1935 by the British soldiers.
This follows a formal request by a prince to have the sculpture returned. Early this year, Prince Edun Akenzua sent two formal appeals to the Bristol City Council requesting them to return the bronze.
Prince Akenzua called on the Bristol authorities to be the first to return one of the hundreds of Benin Bronzes that were stolen during the invasion of Benin City by the British Army. The ancient Benin city is in modern-day Nigeria.
Bristol authorities confirmed the receipt of the formal request, but they were not able to give immediate feedback. However, a credible source within the council has confirmed that discussions regarding the sculpture are ongoing.
Currently, the sculpture is preserved at the city’s main museum. The council is said to be in consultation with the national government as well as other stakeholders before making the final decision.
In his appeal to the council in March, Prince Edun noted that the British forces stole about 2000 works of art during the bloody invasion in 1897.
The council’s spokesperson indicated that things are progressing well but at a slow rate due to coronavirus pandemic. However, he assured the prince that the council will work with the Royal Court in Benin to resolve the contentious issue.
The spokesperson added that the council is looking at modalities of setting up a new museum in Nigeria. If the idea materializes, the sculpture will be preserved there.
The council is also considering the option of asking for monetary payment in return for the bronze. However, the final decision will be made in the coming months.