Massive Protests By Nigerians May Force Sotheby’s To Stop Sale Of Benin Mask

By SaharaReporters, New York

After many Africans bombarded Sotheby's in London with protests, the auction house today asked the Nigeria Liberty Forum (NLF) to furnish it with more information about a precious and high-priced artifact stolen during the colonial era by Lieutenant-Colonel Henry Lionel Galway.

The protests, organized and led by NLF, might have put a stop to further preparations for the auction of a Benin mask estimated for £5 million. The original plan is to sell the mask in London next February.

The NLF’s protests have also been accompanied by legal efforts mounted by several lawyers to stop the sale. The forum, an activist group of Nigerians and friends of Nigeria, has written a letter to Sotheby's demanding it stop the sale of the stolen Benin mask.

See letter below:

Nigeria Liberty Forum
3 Birkbeck Street London E2 6JY
● Tel: + 44 203 015 0739
● Mobile: + 44 798 421 2553
23rd December 2010-12

Ms Helen Collier
Sotheby's London
34-35 New Bond Street
London W1A 2AA

Dear Ms Collier

Re Auction of 16TH Century Benin Ivory and Other Benin Artefacts.

The Nigeria Liberty Forum is a UK based Nigerian pro democracy group of sympathisers and volunteers who share a passion for grassroots political engagement and participation. We amongst many other activities Seek solutions to challenges with other UK based African groups and institutions; Protecting the rights of Nigerians in the UK and the Diaspora; Encouraging Nigerians in Diaspora to engage and participate in the Nigerian political process and Partnership work with individuals and groups in the fields of Education, Charitable causes and Community Development.

We have successfully run many campaigns to further our cause. You may wish to visit our website for further details.

It has come to our attention that 6 pieces of Benin artefacts are to be sold at your auction rooms on the 17th of February 2011 and accordingly we would like to register our protest that precious pieces of our Nigerian heritage are to be sold to the highest bidders.

We are aware (and so should you) that these artefacts were forcefully taken from Nigeria in 1897 when the British invaded the Benin empire and request very firmly that your organisation should not assist and or collude in the appropriation of such.

It is a shame that in this time and age individuals continue to plunder and abuse the culture and heritage of a defenceless people just because they can. There is simply no legal or moral basis for the Galway family to lay claim to the Benin masks and to go on to profit from their sale is reprehensible and unconscionable.
To this end we request that you withdraw the items from sale forthwith as the true ownership is far from settled.  We would also like to request that you go a step further and advise your clients to return these items back to the Nigerian people where they rightfully belong. It is akin to the selling of the Egyptian mummies, and should not be allowed.

We are in the process of mounting legal, diplomatic and or political challenges to the sale of these cultural artefacts and we are sure your organisation does not want to be embroiled in the resulting fallout this will surely create. The rape of Africa and plundering thereof has gone on for far too long and still continues, aided by institutions as yours.

We have also created a petition to stop this sale from going on at the URL below and if necessary mount a physical protest, which as a going concern may be damaging to your reputation from the incessant news coverage that this will bring.

We do not doubt your integrity and we know Sotheby will do the right thing and withdraw the said items from sale.
These artefacts were acquired illegally, by theft, and they are now being put up for sale illegally. The artwork is an important cultural heritage of Benin people, in Nigeria, and it is part of their history, and should be returned forthwith.

It should also be noted that the said masks have been subject of historical study by the Open University, which has produced a clip about the theft of these artefacts. Refer to United Kingdom Open University link bellow.

Yours sincerely

Kayode Ogundamisi – Convener


61 comment(s)
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Is T.B Joshua "prophet" of good or evil? T.B Joshua is a westernised Rolls Royce dirnivg native / witch / voodoo doctor. T.B Joshua, the hypnotist, is not a Christian Bible "prophet". T.B Joshua is just a money motivated fortune teller / a glorified magician / hynotist. If T.B Joshua tried his religious / hypnotic nonsense here in London, London's Metropolitan Police and the Serious Fraud Office will shut down his enterprise and slam his arse in jail faster than he can say abracadabra.

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@Countrybutor as far as

@Countrybutor as far as nigeria goes, there is no proven correlation between national pride and humanity. In my time working with humane organizations we found that many nigerian people who appear patriotic to the end show little sensitivity towards the plight of people who work for them, neglect/abuse of children and subjugation of women. National pride is good but humanity always comes first. Try to organize an anti-wife battery or anti-child abuse rally concerning Nigeria and an interesting find will be how many fb groups/ online forums / NIGERIANS pick up. If Nigerians show no enthusiasm when it directly involves needy, vulnerable people then people WILL question your enthusiasm for masks in the hands of the Brits. Why don't u swear brimstone and fire against those who beat vulnerable children on the streets for no reason?

@ Emancipated girl

Actually, what I find is that people that do not care about things of national pride are the ones that do not care about the ordinary citizens of Nigeria.

The leaders and political elite do not care about anything that does not win them votes or involves the award of contracts. They are the ones that loot the commonwealth that should be used to cater for the por cildren you speak about,

Its the ones that champion the causes of the ordinary citizens that you find fighting for the nation's pride. 


Some people care more about

Some people care more about being vindictive and 'shaming the brits' than they do about fixing the problems of the suffering people in Nigeria today. This whole 'stop sale of mask' project is stirring up hate in Nigerians and causing many to thing regressively. Return the mask to Nigeria and then what? It will give people a sense of pride... really? How many young nigerians actually know about the mask? By the time they're adults, the only thing on their minds is how to make enough money to get out of the shithole of a country! Will the mask give people food, education, clean water, electricity, A FUTURE? Or take care of abused children in Nigeria? Mtchewwwwww






I can tell you are refined having never met u. I see that u have imagined what it must have been like to pass thru "the middle passage". You see the evilness of the whole enterprise. By the way my older sister gave me King Leopold's ghost a few years ago for my birthday. This is certainly a book for people who lack the ability to see the "bigger picture". Remember that perculiarly Nigerian illness called Myopia.When u read a book like that patriots will know why it is imperative that africans show we can lead dynamic and prosperous nations of our own, because it "contextualizes" experiences like King Leopold's Ghost. Ironic that it was the Belgians and the Germans that were the cruelest not the British or the French.

How Greatness fell

Edo: A great and prosperous civilisation, first tragically undermined by the evils of colonialism, then further submerged in a present day filth, Nigeria. How tragic.

We can not change the past

We can not change the past but can but we as a people can shapen the present to bring about the lasting change in our collective future, no matter your politicial or religious affliation the rape of Nigeria is a collective resposibility we all have to address, we might have some among us who are to backward to know the gravity this event but we must not allow this event to happen.

Below is the link to Sothebys sales

Email the following people to stop this evil sales;




RE: White man is a thief at any

@Oyibo West Unfortunately, slavery has been a part of human history for a very long time. Yes, African tribes at war with one another traded their prisoners of war for goods with the Europeans. This was also done with Arabs and had been for many centuries. Whites were slaves too. Only difference is Europeans used form of chattel slavery which the Africans were unfamiliar with. The Europeans were also known for playing tribes against each other like they did with the Native Americans who were largely wiped out. After the scramble for Africa it is written in many literary books describing how they forced the Africans into slavery. (i.e being abducted from their homes, being threatened with guns, manipulations etc)I recommend the book King Leopold's Ghost (but judging by your poor verbal etiquette you might be too ignorant to bother reading the book) and for you information the N word is something Oyibo such as yourself used to describe us that is not something Africans or our ancestors used to describe ourselves long before there were tangible human civilisations in Europe. The existence of these masks alone disproved many fallacies created about the people in Africa

I notice that people like to say that alot, that Africans sold their own into slavery, as if to alleviate the horror of it, or pass the blame, but it does not downplay the horrible treatment the slaves endured during the Middle Passage or once they arrived(if they survived).
Your statement is not entirely accurate; People sometimes try to exonerate Europeans of the realities of the barbaric acts that were committed. That fact remains wrong is wrong. What happened then is wrong and many things that happen now are wrong that includes in Africa and Europe. If things were done properly from the get go I.E. assisting with development rather than exploitation think of the international commerce it would create. These masks are artistic accomplishments that show what Africans were capable of prior to colonization and they should be in a place where they can inspire people rather than in some private collector’s gallery .


I just callled Sothebey's also and registered my protest. A lady answered my call and simply said "Ok, Sir, thank you". I suggest you all do the same, if you have the means and time. Please if you do, be polite and simply register your petition.... I can see tempers are high based on comments here


I just callled Sothebey's also and registered my protest. A lady answered my call and simply said "Ok, Sir, thank you". I suggest you all do the same, if you have the means and time. Please if you do, be polite and simply register your petition.... I can see tempers are high based on comments here

Just called the New York office

... and passed on a strong worded message. Thanks guys for doing a great job fighting from the UK and everywhere else! One cannot help but wonder if our leaders/foreign reps have an iota of interest for the country Nigeria. If I may answer myself, NOT AT ALL. They are a shameless, selfish, self centered, ignorant lot, God help us! Anyway, this is the time for everyone who can call to call, if you can write, send an email, lets bombard them left right and centre until our precious artefacts are returned.

It is better for the mask to

It is better for the mask to be kept in a museum in U.K where people can see it than for it to be sold by this Lt.Col to a private collector.I am not sure I want the mask returned to Nigeria sef.One politician in National Museums Commission will just sell it .

What About Umaru "Ole" Dikko & his Gang of Looters?

If NLF can take this courageous step, it is a matter of time before we get Umaru Dikko and his cohorts to return all the monies they stolen from Nigerians in the name of Import Licence.

Arise o compatriot

The stolen monies retrieved by EFCC from the politicians and the likes of Abachas of this world and their cohorots who milked the country dry could be judiciously use to get back this precious artifact.Nigeria high commission in uk should play vital role.we must get this and other artifacts by all means.

Queen Mother Idia

Queen Idia lived and died many decades before the British punitive attack and sack of my Empire of Benin which resulted in the shaming, humiliation and forced exile of my Oba Ovoramen (may his soul live forever), yet the British brigands found uncountable riches to steal from the Oba's palace. this shows how much these pieces of my heritage were valued by the people, that they valued them as essences of our very being such that they were protected and safegaurded on behalf of the people by The Obas that followed, through generations.....You only have to listen to a typical, traditional song of Binis, full of lamentations...We binis have, since the shameless rape of Benin, in 1897, being living in endless SORROW, for our King, for our way of life....just listen to our songs and you will see,feel and hear, tears flooding like a continuous water is time to get some of our heritage back, we also cherish and have a way of life to be proud of.......Family of Col. 'BRIGAND' galway, return OUR POSSESSIONS.

Thank you Uncle Kayode

We are praying for you and many others who devote much of its time, energy and pressure resources in fighting relentlessly for the weaker, poorer and voiceless one in our society. Brothers and sisters in the Uk our prayer are with you all. Sahara rep, God bless you..

is this kind of comment

is this kind of comment helpful?
shame on you too.

mother Idia of Benin

Okay enough hysteria, ACTION SPEAKS LOUDER THAN VOICE, send your THUNDER to Sotherbys, FGN, Edo State Govt, Your local MP abroad and at home, The British Prime Minister,Nelson Mandela, all newspaper houses around the world, paste on Facebook, Twitter etc, your trusted lawyer, all schools around the world, your university, Just make as much thunderous noise capable to be heard all over the world, to put the col galway family to shame...they have already made enough money loaning these art pieces to museums around the world.......EVERYBODY PHONE SOTHERBYS, EVERY OTHER HOUR, EMAIL HUNDREDS OF MESSAGES.....This is a new world and in which you can use every tool available to make your point and get redress for a monumental disgrace such as this...Lets get going fellow brethen......long live the Oba of Benin, long live the ancient kingdom of Benin, long live the Nations of Nigeria, long live the Nations of Africa.

SEE Gowon & the Queen VIdeo

Well said. God bless you my brother. The stealing continues 10,000 times bigger than 419.


Ask for Laura or Heinrich Schweizer in the New York office. Email address:

They are getting agitated by the calls. Please call these Oyinbo 419s for trying to sell stolen properties.



Where is Hon. "Big Grammar" Obiaghon

Hon. Patrick, where are you on this. I suggest you and others in the Edo Caucus at the National Assembly need to put a call through to the British Embassy for these artifacts to be returned. The only thing Sotheby's can do is to stop the sale, they can't help repatriate them. I was the Admnistrator of Outreach Programs at the Field Museum in Chicago for three years, and everyday I walked our exhibition halls, the only tangible artifacts from SW Nigeria are Benin artifacts. There are millions of these artifacts in museums all over the world. Also, where is Kongi on this?

What a Shame

It is a shame to find out that our representatives (Embassy) r there sitting on their asses with a group of concerned nigerians are the ones doing the fighting. God, please remove this curse you've placed on Nigeria and bless us with those that will stand up for our rights.

The spirit of our Ancestors.

The spirit of our Ancestors are not asleep. The sale of the Bini mask must be stoped, and returned to the city of Bini were it belongs. Thank you all for this massive protest.


@Pec. Where do you suggest the artefacts be returned to? I don't remember reading it in your comments. I doubt you are from Edo State, or precisely a Bini; if not, you will know that the Palace is not involved in politics. By the way, I thought if they were returned, it would go back to the palace from where it was stolen in the first place. Or are you suggesting Government House or perhaps the Benin Museum?

And exactly what did you mean by the "illegally legalised Politicians of Edo State"

The spirit of our Ancestors.

The spirit of our ancestors are not at sleep, the sale of the Bini mask must be stoped and be return to Bini were it belongs. Thank you all for this massive protest.

RE: White man is a thief at any

White man is thief? No, white man is conqueror and you were conquered. If you niggers can't keep your own land and goods then don't blame us. And the fact that you sold untold thousands of your own people into slavery for profit from Calibar hardly gives you the moral high ground.

Nigeria and nigerians are a lost cause and should plead for a colonial power to come back and rule them.

The high or low commisioner

The high or low commisioner is in Abuja capaigning for Goodluck Jonthan

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