Grassroots efforts to protect Nigerian artifacts

Posted on August 13, 2008

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The illegal exportation of national artifacts disproportionately impacts developing nations.  The reasons often include less governmental resources to devote to cultural property protection and repatriation, and citizens less educated about the protection of cultural property with more reason to sell artifacts for small amounts of money.  Many source nation governments consider addressing poverty, disease, and corruption to be more pressing interests than protecting cultural property.  In this climate, grassroots efforts are the key to the preservation of cultural property.

The Benin National Congress, described as a socio-cultural organization in the Edo State of Nigeria, has been making such efforts.  Recently, the group initiated suit against the federal government to conclude investigations into missing artwork and publish its findings.  They allege that the state museums do not institute sufficient security to protect the items in their care.  In July, the BNC issued the federal government of Nigeria a 21-day ultimatum to initiate efforts to recover the stolen Benin artifacts, valued at over $100 million, and to disband the National Commission for Museums and Monuments for their failure to have already done so.

More information about the BNC’s efforts and the cultural property situation in Nigeria is available here:

Ghana News, “Safeguarding Nigeria’s Cultural Treasures”

Ghana News, “News From Nigeria on the Recovery of the Stolen Benin Artefacts”

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