There are thousands upon thousands, if not millions, of African artifacts scattered all across Europe. According to the most commonly cited figures from a 2007 UNESCO forum, 90 per cent to 95 per cent of sub-Saharan cultural artifacts are housed outside Africa. Many, like the works from Benin, were taken during the colonial period and ended up in museums across Europe and North America.
Be they in national museums or private collections, African masks, paintings, carvings, sculptures, potteries—all ancient and priceless—are being held abroad, and the keepers refuse to return them.
For the purpose of formalities let us look at the arguments posed by museums. After all these are the places where the artifacts are on public display and clearly labeled, for instance, ‘Ancient Benin Bronze Axe 1897’ yet the piece is in a French museum and the museum will not release it back to the Kingdom of Benin—present day South Nigeria.
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