The Benin Bronzes: Towards the Resolution of a Long-Standing Dispute?

Fri, April 9, 9:30AM ET

The Benin Bronzes were looted in 1897 from the Royal Palace of Benin City during a punitive expedition amid the British colonial expansion into West Africa. Their status is now central to the worldwide discussion about restitution claims and the return of cultural objects to their place of origin. At stake is what will become of these thousands of pieces from the Benin court, the most famous of which are cast metal heads and commemorative plaques.

Featuring speakers from Africa, Europe, and the U.S., this conference addresses Nigeria’s claims and the preparations for the physical return of the Bronzes, outlines collaborative international projects, and looks at alternatives to restitution such as those proposed by institutions in Europe and elsewhere. Speakers (including some from the Benin Dialogue Group, which gathers Nigerian authorities and global museum delegates) will focus on key issues in critical heritage studies such as the decolonization of Western museums; the role of digitization; decontextualization; and the essential relationship between local communities and objects from their past.


Felicity BodensteinDigital Benin Project; Sorbonne Université, Paris

Souleymane Bachir Diagne, Columbia University, New York

Koki Eghafona, University of Benin, Benin City

David Freedberg, Columbia University, New York

Dan Hicks, University of Oxford; Pitt Rivers Museum

Phillip Ihenacho, Legacy Restoration Trust, Lagos

Christine Mullen Kreamer, Smithsonian National Museum of African Art, Washington D.C.

Moyosore Okediji, University of Texas at Austin

Barbara Plankensteiner, Museum am Rothenbaum – Kulturen und Künste der Welt (MARKK), Hamburg; Benin Dialogue Group

Z.S. Strother, Columbia University, New York

Abba Isa Tijani, National Commission for Museums and Monuments, Nigeria

(Additional speakers and a detailed program are coming soon.)

OrganizerPierre Losson (Italian Academy Fellow 2020)
Co-sponsorInstitute of African Studies (Columbia University)

See also: The Restitution Debate: African Art in a Global Society.

This event is part of the Academy's International Observatory for Cultural Heritage.


SAH thanks The Richard H. Driehaus Foundation
for its operating support.
Society of Architectural Historians
1365 N. Astor Street
Chicago, Illinois 60610