Should Western Museums Keep Stolen African Art?

Metropolitan Museum of Art
Emeka Ochiagha
July 20, 2021

Many of us remember the iconic scene in Black Panther, when Killmonger addresses all the stolen African art in white museums. 

What does it mean that in 2021, the stolen art REMAINS in these institutions?

There has been some progress. Germany, Scotland, and France are all planning on returning looted artifacts back to the original African countries. Many of them were from Nigeria specifically. 

Great Britain, on the other hand, should be ashamed of itself. Despite its massive responsibility for colonial violence, they actually passed laws that forbid the returning of stolen art! It’s disgusting.

Many American museums also have to do the work and begin returning artifacts. Just this summer, the NY Metropolitan museum decided it will be returning Nigerian art back to its people.

Back in Nigeria, the city of Edo is building a new museum that will house many of the returned artifacts. This can be a new start to mending some colonial wounds – even though this is the barest minimum when it comes to supposedly “post-colonial” issues.

We have to be honest about what these institutions are. Museums are often white palaces glorifying the theft of Black treasures. If they still have the power to control our historical artifacts, can we truly say that colonialism has ended?

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