Piece is part of the Benin Bronze collection; Aberdeen museum chief said the work was "clearly plundered"
Aberdeen University said on Thursday (25) that it will return a Benin Bronze statuette to Nigeria in a few weeks.
The university is one of the first public institutions to return a treasure to Africa more than a century after Britain looted sculptures and auctioned off to Western collectors and museums.
The university said the sculpture of an Oba (ruler) the Kingdom of Benin left Nigeria in an "extremely immoral" way and the country's government contacted UK authorities in 2019 to negotiate his return.
This increased the pressure for the Bronzes of Benin (actually relief sculptures made of copper alloy) to return to their places of origin.
Neil Curtis, head of museums and special collections in Aberdeen, said the Bronze purchased by the institution in 1957 was "clearly looted". "It was clear that we had to do something," he said.
Professor Abba Isa Tijani, director general of Nigeria's National Commission for Museums and Monuments, said the importance of displaying Bronze within Nigeria for the first time in more than 120 years was inexplicable.
"It is part of our identity, part of our heritage that has been taken us for many years," said Tijani.
British soldiers seized in 1897 thousands of metal pieces the Kingdom of Benin, which today is part of the territory of Nigeria, when it was under British rule.
The British Museum, which holds hundreds of sculptures along with several other museums, has formed a Dialogue Group to discuss the exhibition and loan of the sculptures in Benin City, Nigeria. Discussions are still ongoing.
Germany is negotiating to return 440 bronzes Benin later this year. Jesus College, of the University of Cambridge, said it had finalized the documentation and that in December it will return another bronze.
Tijani said that US museums have also agreed to return two more Bronzes.
The governor of the state of Edo, Benin City is the capital, plans to build a center to store and study the artifacts returned by the end of 2021 and a permanent museum until 2025.
The artist and native of Edo state, Victor Ehikhamenor, said he hoped the decision would lead others to follow suit. "As some of these works are lacking in our environment, people are unable to clearly contextualize we came ," said Ehikhamenor.