For Edo-born artists like Ehikhamenor and Ogbebor, the restitution of the bronzes is also personal. While the artworks will showcase local artists’ cultural influences, crucially, they will also serve as a reference for a budding generation of artists and bridge the gap in Benin’s art heritage. ”Imagine if in the last 100 years, all the works of Picasso, Monet and Michelangelo were removed from society for 100 years?” Ogbebor posits. “That is what the British invasion did to Benin by removing those things.”

Returning the art, Ehikhamenor argues, is the first step to fixing that lost connection to indigenous art heritage which has also forced local artists to look abroad for more validation, appreciation and income. ”When I make an artwork, if a white man does not endorse it, I can not grow in the art world,” Ehikhamenor says. “The hole that the African artist has to climb out of was dug a long time ago and the ladder to climb out of that hole is held by the Western world.”

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