Benin prince calls for Bristol Museum to return stolen sculpture

A prince of Benin has called on a British museum to “blaze the trail” in returning one of thousands of artefacts looted during the colonial era.

The sculpture, currently at Bristol Museum, is one of the “Benin Bronzes”, taken during the invasion of Benin City by the British in 1897.

Prince Edun Akenzua, of the Royal Court of Benin, said: “They were not originally made as museum objects.”

Bristol Museum said it was open to sending it back after the plea.

The Benin Bronzes are a group of more than 1,000 plaques and sculptures that adorned the royal palace of the Oba – or king – of Benin, in west Africa.

But for more than 100 years the collection has been dispersed around the world, mostly in European museums and private collections.

The highly detailed, cast bronze bust at Bristol Museum has not been valued but a similar sculpture sold for more than £1m.

Prince Edun, speaking to BBC Inside Out West, said the museum could set a trend by returning it. “We are aware of the Benin Bronze at Bristol Museum,” he said.

“We are appealing to Bristol Museum to blaze the trail for the international community or private holders of the Benin cultural property to get them returned.”

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