January 12th of I897 can be considered the appropriate date in history when the United Kingdom’s Admiralty appointed Admiral Harry Rawson began the execution of the punitive expedition of about 1,200 strong British forces to avenge the killings of recalcitrant James Phillip’s-led party by Benin’s. The United Kingdom’s forces, comprising sailors, the royal marines, and Niger Coast Protectorate Forces burnt down the once-thriving Benin kingdom, now Benin City capital of Edo State in southern Nigeria, and looted more than 4000 artworks mostly bronzes, as spoils of the war. Most of the stolen art pieces were functional religious pieces, historical / war repository, while others still were used to decorate the palace walls and chambers of the Oba of Benin. Numerous others were also looted from homes of noble chiefs and notable individuals in the kingdom.
The looted pieces made mostly from about the 13th century onwards by the people, till date remain the typical examples of Benin unique artistry. They include the iconic ivory mask of Queen Idia (first Iyoba, meaning Queen mother) of the 16th-century, and other artworks, that were shipped to England, with about two hundred of them, seen as its biggest collections ended up in the British Museum in London, while the rest were sold to approximately 60 museums across the United States of America, Germany and other European countries. Unknown to the Iooters that they have showcased the rich cultural heritage of Benin Kingdom to the world especially bronze casting expertise and ingenuity demonstrated in executing works using other craft media.
Edo kingdom has always been maintaining is credibility known to be the first cultural kingdom in the world holding to ancient of days antiquity still found in museums around the world. Benin kingdom and united kingdom are known to be the only the kings and queens kingdom recognise, but today the great Benin kingdom artworks have been a source of income to Britain by means of tourism.
Source: Emmanuel Ikhenebome (reporter)
Via: obaland magazine