The Church of England has offered to return two Benin Bronze sculptures to Nigeria.
It says the artefacts were acquired as gifts from Nigerian institutions in the 1980s.
The Church becomes one of a number of institutions intending to return them more than a century after the UK looted many of the sculptures and auctioned them to Western museums and collectors.
Digital Benin, a project that maps which institutions hold Benin Bronzes, had contacted Lambeth Palace—the residence of the Archbishop of Canterbury—about whether it held any objects from the group.
In response, Lambeth Palace had confirmed to the Digital Benin project that two bronze busts, gifted to Archbishop Robert Runcie in 1982 by His Excellency Chief (Prof.) Ambrose F. Alli and the University of Nigeria, Nuskka werw atill im their possession.
“We have offered for the two busts to be included in the Digital Benin project and eventually, returned to our friends in Edo, Nigeria where they may remain. We are currently in discussions with the EMOWAA, via the Legacy Restoration Trust, to arrange this” a Lambeth Palace spokeswoman said.
The Benin Bronzes were taken in 1897 by British troops as part of a colonial conquest. They had belonged to the Kingdom of Benin, in what is now Nigeria, and they have since ended up at institutions across the globe, including the British Museum, the Humboldt Forum in Berlin, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.
The works from the holdings of Lambeth Palace could reside at the Edo Museum of West African Art in Benin City, which is set to open in 2025 and will act as a space for Benin Bronzes, should they be sent home. “We have offered for the two busts to be included in the Digital Benin project and eventually, returned to our friends in Edo, Nigeria, where they may remain,” the Church of England spokesperson said.