OPINION: Why returning the Artefacts to the Benin Palace is not debatable — By Victor Arigbe
When people visit the great Benin kingdom to carry out their tour, the very first place on their tour guide is the Benin palace as it is the point where the beauty of the kingdom began. The palace is the custodian of the Benin cultural heritage, it has preserved and sustained its culture for thousands of years. The Benin palace has applied to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) to be certified and recognised as one of the world’s heritage sites, as it has met all standards and criteria to be one.
The Benin kingdom fell to British invasion in 1897 and has since lost some of its properties due to the looting of the palace by the invaders. Some of these properties which today are referred to as artefacts, are precious properties belonging to the palace.
The current debate on the stolen artefacts is unarguably uncalled for, since the Europeans have decided to return the properties of the Benin palace, these items should be returned to the palace and not a proposed museum to be built by the Governor of Edo state. I hereby appeal to the Governor to focus on legitimate other mediums of revenue generation. Also, the supporters of the Governor should not be clouded with sentiments as it is completely illogical to put profit-making ahead of cultural heritage and sustainability.
The palace is a constituted place with educated chiefs who have continued to maintain and sustain the Benin culture and its heritage. The repatriation of these artefacts would further add value to our rich culture and make the world see the Benin kingdom as a good tourism destination.
Finally, it will also serve as the right avenue to convince the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) that the Benin palace is worthy of global recognition by UNESCO as a world heritage site.
M.Sc. (in view), International Tourism and Hospitality.
Ulster University, United Kingdom.