This petition page has been set up in an effort to put a stop to the auction of a 16th century Benin mask stolen during the invasion of the Benin people by the British. It recently resurfaced after going missing for many years and is being put up for sale (according to www.artdaily.org) along with five other Benin objects by the "descendants of Lieutenant Colonel Sir Henry Lionel Gallwey ( in 1913 he changed his name to Galway) who was appointed deputy commissioner and vice-consul in the newly established Oil Rivers Protectorate (later the Niger Coast Protectorate) in 1891. He remained in Nigeria until 1902 and participated in the British Government’s “Punitive Expedition” of 1897 against Benin City. The faces of the five known pendant masks have been interpreted widely by scholars of Benin art as that of Idia, the first Queen Mother of Benin."
Dr Kwame Opoku, an academic on artefacts and reparations/ restitution, adds in an article written for the museum-security.org that "Although Britain invaded Benin City in 1897, it never formally declared war on Benin. Thus whatever may have been the rights of victors in wars never applied to the case of Benin. Moreover, since 1815, it had been accepted by European States that cultural objects of enemies were to be protected in case of military conflict and left intact. There was no provision for carrying away the cultural objects of the enemy. Where this was done, it was against the established norms."
Sotheby's plans to auction this precious mask and other Benin objects on 17 February 2011. We plan to put a stop to the sale and get the items returned to the Benin people in Nigeria
Below is a copy of the Press Statement by Sotheby's dated 24 December 2010
STATEMENT REGARDING CANCELLATION OF BENIN SALE
“The Benin Ivory Pendant Mask and other items consigned by the descendants of
Lionel Galway which Sotheby’s had announced for auction in February 2011 have
been withdrawn from sale at the request of the consignors.”
Liaise with the Galway family to ensure that the artefacts are returned to the rightful owners - the Oba of Benin and his subjects.
Thank you all!
Nigeria Liberty Forum
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