Mexico returns one of Nigeria's cultural artefacts

A bronze Yoruba sculpture has been returned to Nigeria (Government of Mexico’s official website)
  • An ancient bronze sculpture has made its way back home to Nigeria.
  • The stolen sculpture was found after someone tried to smuggle it into Mexico.
  • It is believed to be a 6th-century relic from the southwestern Yoruba City of Ife.

Nigeria is getting back another cultural artefact - an ancient bronze sculpture.

This time, it is coming from Mexico. It was discovered at the Mexico City airport by customs officials after someone tried to smuggle it into the country.

According to the AFP news agency, the sculpture dates back to the 6th century from the southwestern Yoruba city of Ife.

It depicts a man wearing pants and a hat, who is sitting with his legs crossed and holding an instrument.

The sculpture was recently returned during a ceremony held at the headquarters of Mexican Foreign Affairs Secretariat.

Handed over the artefact to Aminu Iyawa, the Nigerian Ambassador to Mexico, Julian Ventura Valero, Mexican Deputy Secretary of Foreign Affairs, declared the country's commitment to recover and return stolen artefacts.

In the Mexican Deputy Secretary's words, "For Mexico, the recovery of illegally stolen cultural property is a priority. 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. Mexico and Nigeria are multiethnic and multilingual nations, therefore, they are committed to the fight against theft, robbery and looting of cultural property”.

Accepting the sculpture, Iyawa, Nigeria's ambassador, said that “the return of this piece to his people, beyond a gesture of friendship, is an action that joins to the global call to return the heritage legacy that was once plundered to their countries of origin, many of them with a colonialist past like Nigeria and Mexico."

Business Insider sub-Saharan Africa recently chatted with Isaac Emokpae, an award-winning visual artist, who stressed the need for Africa's stolen treasures to be returned.

Stolen loot are finally making their way back to Africa

This sculpture is one of the looted African cultural relics that are finally making their way back to where they belong.

A stolen 18th-century ceremonial crown was also recently returned to Ethiopia. The artefact, which has great religious significance, went missing from a church in Ethiopia 21 years ago.

It was found by Sirak Asfaw, a Dutch national of Ethiopian origin who told the AFP that he found the crown in a suitcase left behind by a guest to his apartment.

The priceless object has been with him for 21 years. Explaining why, he said he was reluctant to return "looted heritage to the same regime as the one during which it was stolen...That is why I have waited for 21 years and have safeguarded it all those years."

Sigrid Kaag, Netherlands foreign trade and development cooperation minister, said the government was pleased to have been involved in the "rightful return" of the artifact to Ethiopia.

"We're honoured and delighted to have been able to facilitate the rightful return. This is the crowning achievement of returning this heritage to its rightful place," the minister said in a statement.


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