Friday 22 February 2013

'Benin Plan of Action' for restitution

After three days of meeting between Nigeria’s National Commission for Museums and Monuments (NCMM) and representatives of holders of Benin bronzes in foreign museums, here is what the gathering arrived at as “Benin Plan of Action”. 

The plan of action signed by the Director-General of
NCMM, Yusuf Abdallah Usman states: 

Museum professionals in Europe with holdings of Benin art collections and the National Commission for Museums and Monuments of Nigeria a scholar on copyright law and representatives of the court of Benin, met in Benin, Nigeria on the 19th and 20th of February 2013, in continuation of previous meetings in Vienna, Austria and Berlin, Germany and proposed that a Memorandum of Understanding be made between the collaborating institutions on the following issues:

1. Developing a data bank by the collaborating institutions on Benin art collections in their holdings in form of a digital archive of electronic and hard copies. This data will be submitted and made available to the general public.

2. That all collaborating institutions upon request shall have right of producing free of charge photographs of Benin art objects in the collection of collaborating institutions particularly for scholarly purposes. 

Minister of Tourism, Culture and National Orientation, Chief Edem Duke and D-G, NCMM, Yusuf Abdallah Usman (centre) in a group photograph with the representatives of the foreign museums. 

3. That staff of the collaborating institutions shall have access to Benin Collections in their holdings in accordance with the existing procedures of the institutions.

4. That the National Commission for Museums and Monuments shall improve the university education of its staff working on the collections and on this basis collaborating institutions will assist in securing support for internship and scholarship for postgraduate studies on the Benin collections.

5. That collaborating institutions assist with expertise in the establishment of a conservation laboratory in Nigeria.

6. That collaborating institutions shall assist the National Commission for Museums and Monuments in developing its library and archive facilities.

7. That the National Commission for Museums and Monuments and collaborating museums shall create an enabling environment for an increased exchange of touring/travelling exhibitions for the Benin art objects and other art traditions where the European and Nigerian museum experts will work together in the planning and execution of such exhibitions.
That these individual steps are part of the dialogue which goal is to lead to the display of the objects in Nigeria.

The meeting resolved that there is a need at the next meeting to discuss:
The issue of fake Benin art objects on the international art markets and its consequences for museums, The 1970 UNESCO Convention, The publication of their inventories.

In attendance at the meeting were: Dr. Michael Barrett and Dr. Lotten Gustafsson-Reinius represented the National Museum of Ethnography of the Museums of World Culture Stockholm, Sweden Dipl. Ethn; Silvia Dolz of Museum für Völkerkunde Dresden, Staatliche Ethnographische Sammlungen Sachsen of the Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden, Germany; Dr. Peter Junge represented Ethnologisches Museum-Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Germany; Dr. Barbara Plankensteiner represented Museum für Völkerkunde, Vienna, Austria; Dr. Annette Schmidt represented the National Museum of Ethnology of the Netherlands.

Other participants included Rosemary Bodam, Peter Odeh,  Babatunde Adebiyi, Prof. Folarin Shyllon,  Prince Edun Egharese Akenzua MFR – Enogie of Obazuwa, Chief Stanley Obamwonyi – Esere of Benin.

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