Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Can't Trust the Natives

In a post ('More on Benin Mask') on his little-read Cultural Property Objector blog, Washington lawyer Peter Tompa argues that "additional context is necessary" to the story of the withdrawal of the sale of colonial loot by Sotheby's last week. According to Tompa "any Nigerian claim to the high moral ground" is "undercut" by the "destruction of the Oron Museum and the wanton burning of hundreds of ancestral figures (ekpu) as firewood during and after the Biafran civil war".
In short, any self-righteous indignation about 19th c. looting needs to be tempered by an acknowledgement of what Nigeria itself did to Oron culture in 1975.
So basically Tompa is saying that material looted from Benin by the British punitive expedition should not be returned because the natives had a destructive civil war forty years ago? That argument reeks of neocolonial paternalism.

See also: Elor Nkereuwem, 'Time and tide at the Oron Museum'.

No comments:

Post a Comment