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Country of Origin: Nigeria
Museum: The British Museum; notable collections in other museums across Europe and the US

The cockerel was one of up to 10,000 artifacts stolen by British troops from the royal palace in the Kingdom of Benin (in present-day Nigeria) in 1897. The pieces were dispersed throughout the world and, in the decades that followed, several were acquired by or donated to US museums including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Chicago’s Field Museum, the Museum of Fine Arts Boston and others.

The Met repatriated two looted Benin items to Nigeria last November, but retains around 160 in its collection — one of the largest in the US. With more than 900 pieces, the British Museum in London has the world’s biggest collection of Benin bronzes.


Museums who have returned (or have agreed to return) Benin bronzes to Nigeria include The National Gallery of Art, the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of African Art and the Rhode Island School of Design Museum.

However, there are still Benin bronzes displayed in museums all over the world that should be returned.

22 December 2022: “German government officials have handed over 20 Benin bronze objects to Nigeria as part of a major restitution agreement signed earlier this year. Germany’s foreign minister Annalena Baerbock gave items such as a miniature mask of an Iyoba (queen mother) and the brass head of a Benin king (oba) to her Nigerian counterpart, Geoffrey Onyeama, in a ceremony held at the Nigerian foreign ministry in Abuja on 20 December.” – The Art Newspaper

29 April 2021: “As many as 160 museums and institutions around the world hold artefacts looted from the kingdom of Benin in their collections. The Art Newspaper asked museums in five countries for their position on the restitution debate and whether they too are preparing to return Benin objects to Nigeria and its future Edo Museum of West African Art…

…Around 45 British institutions hold looted artefacts from Benin. The Horniman Museum in London has introduced a process for addressing restitution claims but says it has “received no repatriation requests, which means that no definitive decision has been reached about repatriation of any object”. The museum has 26 items from Benin in a display that gives details of their forced removal and contested status…

…The British Museum has one of the largest collections of Benin bronzes in the world, with more than 900 pieces, but it is prohibited from removing items from its collection under the British Museum Act of 1963. In a statement, it says only that “the devastation and plunder wreaked upon Benin City during the British military expedition in 1897 is fully acknowledged by the museum and the circumstances around the acquisition of Benin objects explained in gallery panels and on the museum’s website.”” – The Art Newspaper