By Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani
A group of African Americans has filed a lawsuit to stop the return of some Benin Bronzes from the Smithsonian Museum in Washington DC to Nigeria.
They claim that the bronzes – looted by British colonialists in the 19th Century from the kingdom of Benin in what is now Nigeria – are also part of the heritage of descendants of slaves in America, and that returning them would deny them the opportunity to experience their culture and history.
“It is a very interesting argument,” says 93-year-old David Edebiri, after laughing for about 15 seconds straight.
He is part of the cabinet of the current Oba of Benin – the king or traditional ruler in southern Nigeria’s Edo state.
“But the artefacts are not for the Oba alone. They are for all Benin people, whether you are in Benin or in the diaspora.”
Most Nigerians with whom I have discussed this US lawsuit have burst into laughter.
But Deadria Farmer-Paellmann, the founder and executive director of the Restitution Study Group (RSG) which initiated it, is dead serious.