Mexico Returns Ancient Bronze Sculpture To Nigeria


Mexico Returns Ancient Bronze Sculpture To Nigeria

Mexico has returned an ancient bronze sculpture to Nigeria after thwarting an attempt to smuggle it into the country, officials say.

The artefact is from Nigeria’s south-western Ife city, famous for works depicting royalty and deities of the once-powerful Yoruba kingdom.

The sculpture is of a man sitting cross-legged, wearing a head dress and holding an object.

Customs officers seized it at the main airport in Mexico City.

“A beautiful bronze piece, and being of Nigerian heritage, it should return to its home,” said Diego Prieto, the head of Mexico’s National Institute of Anthropology and History.

The institute verified that the sculpture was of Yoruba origin, and it has been handed to Nigeria’s ambassador to Mexico, Aminu Iyaw.

Chief Mkwawa’s skull now sits on a plinth, protected by a glass box, in a tiny museum in a small town in central Tanzania. But like a trophy, it once adorned the house of a colonial official in Germany’s administrative centre in Bagamoyo, before being spirited away to Germany at some point at the beginning of the 20th Century.

The skull was used as a symbol to intimidate the Wahehe people, who the chief had led in a fierce rebellion against the German colonisers.

So successful was his campaign in the 1890s that a bounty was put on his head by the Germans. He is believed to have eventually taken his own life in 1898, rather than submit to the humiliation of being captured, as he sheltered in a cave that was encircled by German soldiers.

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Two decades later, the fate of his skull was on the minds of the diplomats who spent months arguing over the settlement of World War One.

Mexico’s foreign ministry said the artefact had been illegally exported.

“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,” said Julián Ventura Valero, the deputy secretary of foreign affairs.

Officials did not give details about who was behind the attempt to smuggle the sculpture into Mexico, or its exact origins

Mexico Returns Ancient Bronze Sculpture To Nigeria


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