Artist statement by Enotie Paul Ogbebor

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The Benin Bronzes are famous for their high craftmanship and the violent circumstances through which they have found their way into the holdings of over 160 museums all over the world. They were looted in 1897 by British soldiers. Thereafter the entire body of records of Benin heritage, inscribed in the artefacts, became dispersed globally. The ongoing restitution process has progressed with Germany signing over the rights of ownership over Benin-artefacts to Nigeria.

Colonialism and the subsequent forming of a nation-state dismantled the centuries old socio-political and economic system under the monarchy, as well as people’s ways of relating to their natural environment in the Kingdom of Benin. Through my selection of Benin Bronzes from the Leipzig and Dresden museums, I have sought to create a semblance of the social hierarchies and roles, practices, rituals and social graces that constituted life in the Kingdom.

Through the interrogation of these artefacts, one can appreciate the multiple roles that constituted the Kingdom’s complex social and political organization. This show their importance as keepers of memories. The artefacts serve as important references to unravel the past. At the same time, they evoke questions for contemporary times.

Enotie Paul Ogbebor, December 2022