Mexican Government Returns Stolen Bronze Sculpture to Nigeria
Mexican customs officials thwarted an attempt to smuggle the ancient Yoruba sculpture into the country.
The ancient sculpture was seized by customs officials at Mexico City Airport following an attempt to reportedly smuggle the artefact into the country.
The bronze sculpture itself is thought to be a 6th century relic from the southwestern Yoruba City of Ife and depicts a man in woven pants sitting cross legged and holding an instrument.
While it is still unclear how the artefact was obtained in the first place, Mexico's Deputy Secretary of Foreign Affairs Julián Ventura Valero says, "We oppose the illegal commercialisation of archaeological pieces, an important cause of the impoverishment of the cultural heritage of the nations of origin, since it undermines the integrity of cultures and, therefore, of humanity."
Several bronze artefacts ranging from a 19th-century cockerel from Benin City to an 18th-century Ethiopian crown have since been returned to their respective countries over the past few years. Often the result of looting during the colonial era, the governments of these African countries are now rightly demanding that these stolen pieces of significant cultural history be permanently returned to them and not offered on "long-term loans" as has often been the case.
However, thousands more of these invaluable artefacts from many African countries remain housed in museums across Europe. Revisit our interview with anthropologist and curator Niama Safia Sandy about the politics around the repatriation of African art here.
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