Nigerian Protesters Force Sotheby’s To Shelve Planned Sale Of Stolen Benin Ivory Mask

Stolen Benin Ivory Mask
By SaharaReporters, New York

Nigerian protesters scored a huge victory the day before Christmas when the auction house, Sotheby's, issued a rare press release announcing the cancellation of its sale of a prized Benin ivory mask. In a statement dated December 24, Sotheby’s disclosed the cancellation of the auction, which had been scheduled for February 17, 2011 in London.

The auction had spurred a widespread protest by Nigerians and other sympathetic groups organized by the UK-based Nigeria Liberty Forum   (NLF). Hundreds of protesters had contacted Sotheby’s in writing, through phone calls or by street protests to demand the cancellation of the sale and to push for the return of the mask to Nigeria.

The mask was stolen during the colonial era by Lieutenant Colonel Henry Lionel Galway, who had acted as a deputy commissioner and vice-consul in what is now known as the Niger Delta region. Mr. Galway and other British soldiers of fortune had engaged in a massive plunder of prized artifacts when British soldiers attacked the Benin Kingdom, looted its prized possessions and burnt down the city.

Mr. Galway’s descendants had contacted Sotheby's to handle the sale of the masks expected to fetch as much as £5 million.

But in the face of widespread protests, Sotheby’s issued a terse statement titled “STATEMENT REGARDING CANCELLATION OF BENIN SALE”. The statement read: “The Benin Ivory Pendant Mask and other items consigned by the descendants of Lionel Galway which Sotheby’s had announced for auction in February 2011 have been withdrawn from sale at the request of the consignors.”

In an earlier press release dated December 20, 2010, Sotheby's had exuberantly announced that it planned to auction off a “16th century ivory pendant mask depicting the head of the Queen mother from the Edo peoples, Kingdom of Benin in Nigeria along with five other rare works from Benin collected at the same time.”

That statement propelled the Nigeria Liberty Forum (NLF) into mobilizing against the sale of the prized artifacts. “We can no longer sit idly and allow people who plundered and looted our cultural resources and often engaged in highly genocidal attacks on African peoples to come out in the open and profit from their deplorable acts,” said Kayode Ogundamisi, a leader of NLF.

The protests against the Sotheby’s auction were mounted through SaharaReporters as well as petitions on Facebook and twitter.

The protest organizers encouraged Nigerians across the globe to contact Sotheby's auctioneers by phone or e-mail. These tactics as well as threats of legal action forced Sotheby's in London to initially put the sale on hold while seeking further information from the NLF. By Christmas Eve, the sale had been canceled and the announcement removed from Sotheby’s auction calendar.

The campaign marks the second time the NLF would conduct a successful “telephone campaign” to stop high-profile acts of violations of public interests. The group’s first major campaign was to mobilize Nigerians to bombard a Heathrow Hotel with phone calls to drive away Nigeria's former Attorney General, Michael Aondoakaa, who had sneaked into London to sabotage the trial of associates of former Governor James Ibori. Mr. Aondoakaa was forced to flee the hotel as Nigerians all over the world made more than 1,500 calls to his hotel in less than one hour.

Mr. Ogundamisi told SaharaReporters that the NLF was monitoring other artifacts purloined from Nigeria by British colonial officials and held in different parts of the world. “We will not rest until these cultural assets are returned to their original owners in Nigeria,” he said.

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BRITAIN GETS FAT SEEING OTHERS SLIM

TILL DATE THIS HAS BEEN THERE POLICY. THE REASON A LOT REGION IN THE WORLD DETEST THEM. YOU STEAL FROM ANOTHER PERSON KILL HIS ENTIRE FAMILY BURN DOWN ITS HOUSE BUT PROTECTS YOURS. EVEN AFTER HELP YOU GET FAT YOU STILL CHASTISE HIS CHILDREN TO DATE. WHILE THINGS ARE BEGINNING TO TURN NOW.

AMERICA USED TO BE YOUR BOY, INIT, BUT YOU THERE SLAVE NOW. FOR POWER AND TECH NOW A LOT NEW ENTRY. YOU ARE PROGRESSING BUT IN A RETROGRESSIVE WAY.EXCEPT FOR BOOZE CHIPS AND KETCHUP

Benin Stolen Masks

Gentlmen:

I just want to express my sincerely gratitude to all the people respossibile for stopping the sale of Benin stolen Masks--and, for letting Sotheby know that this time they are not going to get away it. Thanks, guys for a battle well fugth. How would Sotheby feel if someone stole Queen Victoria Crown or Henry the eight (8) Crown or his saber or British Government for that matter, and then 100 years later their grand children or great grand-children put up for public auction. This is the type of greedyness I talk about in my book, entitle
GREEDY SPIDER - who never have enough, and in a constant habit of wanting to other people properties at all cause. Now the whole world is witnessing the reason why Africa is poor: first, it's human-capitals was stripped, and then her natural resources, culture as well as her religion artifact and relic removed by the European. Is this the way the so-called civilization work?

PERRY RAMON & ABAPHOBIA - THE APOTHEOSIS

Thank God that Perry Ramon and I are now on the same page, with the difference being that he does not like the thought of Aba Elephants being the source of the Benin ivory. He however does not address the issue of the whereabouts of the Edo elephants. Perry, please tell me what happened to them?

IF BRITISH CAN LOOT...

IF BRITISH CAN LOOT AND STILL ALLOW THE DESCENDANTS OF THE LOOTERS TO PUT FORTH THEIR LOOTS OPENLY FOR PROFIT INTO FAMOUS AUCTION HOUSES AND THE GOVERNMENT PRETENDS NOT TO SEE, THEN TELL ME BY WHICH CRITERIA ARE THEY QUALIFIED TO HANDLE LOOTERS LIKE IBORI?????

UNTIL TODAY, I AM STILL WONDERING HOW ALAMIESEGHA MANAGED TO ESCAPE THE ALMIGHTY BRITISH SECURITY BY DISGUISING AS A WOMAN AS PURPORTED AND EVEN MAKING IT TO THE AIRPORT AND BOARDING DOWN TO 9JA...ABI IM TREK?????

I TELL YOU THAT ALL DEM THAT RECEIVED LOOTED ITEMS FROM OUR LEADERS WILL BRING THEM UP FOR AUCTION IN THE NEXT HUNDREDS OF YEARS TO COME.

The Punitive Expedition of

The Punitive Expedition of 1897 should be taught in Nigerian schools. I encourage you all to read about it.

WHERE TRUTHBETOLD ERRED

Truthbetold, it seems you have cleverly shifted your stand from claiming that the ivory used in carving the Benin mask was from Aba elephants to being an animal rights activist, a PETA clone.I wouldn't have any grouse with you for your animal rights activism as I do believe to some degree that our environments and endangered species must be protected for the good of our planet and its inhabitants. However, where I disagree with you is your inordinate leap to the claim that the ivory used in carving the Queen Idia's mask is from an elephant from Aba, and therefore should be returned to Aba museum (emphasis mine). We all know that elephants roamed the forests of sub-sahara Africa. Your claim of Aba's sole rights to elephants that roamed the entire West Africa region is an assault which,if left unchecked, could evolve to claiming that the cocoa of Yorubaland, the groundnuts of Kano, the fish and oil of Niger Delta, the diamonds of Liberia, the ivory of Ivory coast and even the gold of Ghana and South Africa are from Aba. That is my grouse with you. You were better off just sticking to you your animal rights activism.

OF BLOOD DIAMONDS & ABA IVORY TUSKS:EDO MASKS

God bless Steve Omoragbon. I believe our eyes are opening by instalments. See how the issue of the Aba elephants is now being substituted for so called blood diamonds on the English crown. Steve wake up! We want to know the whereabouts of the Elephants that roamed Edo Land. What happened to them?

So what now

so what is going to happen to the artifacts now? Will they be returned? we must press for the items to be returned

TRUTHBETOLD & 'EDO ELEPHANTS'

I am certainly enjoying this, I mean my so called 'delusion' identified by Perry Romos. Thank God that his father Mr Romos told him about how Grandfather Romos told him that Elephants roamed Benin. Where are those elephants today? What happened to them? You see that is my DELUSION. Untill these questions are answered I am afraid my delusion will continue. SPARE A THOUGHT FOR OUR FLORA & FAUNA. The truth must be told!

The Bini Mask

British invaded Benin just this same period two centuries ago. By tradition, the Oba neither travels nor receives visitors during the period of Igue festival. Even those Binis that unfortunately met their death during this period are not buried until the Igue festivals are over.
It was during this period the British invaders requested to see Oba Ovonramen no gbasi. The Oba rejected this request which according to the invaders was disrespect to the Queen. The invaders came with their gun power and massacre thousands of innocent souls, looted the treasury including the Idia Mask in question, burned down Benin, the Oba taken to and killed in Calabar. We all know the popular Benin massacre in 1897.
In the trial of the Oba who speak no word in English and the invaders no word in Bini, the British became the prosecutor and the judge.
The world should know that the crown the queen is wearing today is made of blood diamond looted from regions forcefully ruled by them.

Ignorant bloggers

Some ignorant bloggers on this thread have said to leave the mask to the Brits because "we can't maintain it". How sad that this same statement was made by the Brits just before FESTAC '77 when the then minister of culture, a certain Anthony Enahoro, importuned these brutes to release it to Nigeria, at least for the period of the festival without success. We still have a long way to go before we shed our colonial mentality.

TRUTHBETOLD

You are a fool. Sorry for your education, please go back to school. It will help improve your life.

TRUTHBETOLD IS DELUDED

I don't know what gave Truthbetold the right to claim that the ivory used in carving the Edo's Queen mother's mask was from Aba. Did he match the DNA from the mask to an elephant in his father's backyard in Aba? Does it now mean that every ivory used in carving in the whole of West Africa is from Aba? Were elephants God's "sole gift" to Aba people? For his information, Truthbetold should be educated that elephants roamed the forests of the entire West African region. That is why elephants featured prominently in the culture, folklores, anthropology and even traditional rituals of most West Africa's tribes and ethnic groups. My late grandfather told me of so many elephant hunting experiences in the old Edo kingdom. As far as I'm concerned, Truthbetold's claim smacks of delusion, or better yet an attempt to reap where he has not sown.

benin mask

Please remove this horrible picture, this is not the Bini Ivory mask. Probably this is the Aba mask.
For the ignorant few, there are elephants in Benin, hence the name Ogbe-ni, meaning elephant hunter. My father had an elephant presented to him in my early recollections. The elephant was killed in a place called Udo, an environ of Benin City.
I would like to use this opportunity to thank Sahara Reporters, NLF and majority of Nigerian patriots, who though not from Benin took it upon themselves to fight this injustice, may you find help in your time of need. God bless you all.

It is unfortunate that the

It is unfortunate that the only prof for the Edo claim is the respect of the English Queen for the Edo Monarch. Short memory. It is the same authorities that ordered the the sacking of the Bini palace and hanging of of its henchmen. Indeed one Edo monarch had to die in humiliating exile. Let us not lose sight of the thrust of our thesis, and which is that we should SPARE A THOUGHT FOR ANIMALS! Cruelty to animals, especially de-tusking of Aba elephants is shameful, and should not be encouraged by illegal trade in ivory and its derivates. Please leave Aba Elephants alone!

ABA IVORY CARVING & 'PROUDLYFROMBENIN'

It is unfortunate that the only claim that 'PROUDLYFROMBENIN' can lay to the Aba Ivory tusk is that the 'English Queen respects Edo Royalty'! How time flies! The same British authority that ordered the sacking of the Benin palace and hanging of its henchmen, and even exiling of one of its monarchs is now the reference point for this sort of claim. I would have thought that we should be regaled with narration of the craftsmanship that led to Bini's fame in Bronzework and carvings and the golden age of Benin civilisations. Let those whose kernels are cracked by benevolent spirits keep quiet and be humble please

ABA IVORY TUSK & BENIN CLAIMS 2

I do not want any contributor to miss the point about our history and our inter dependence. This talk of Elephants being everywhere and their tusks being available for carving makes me sick. While we reevaluate the trash handed to us as history, we need to refocus on the ABA HAPLESS ELEPHANT denied of its teeth and probably killed in the process. Let us spare a thought for these animals. I am not advocating that a whole nation be prosecuted for cruelty to animals, but then that's a thought!

R u from Edo? Better close

R u from Edo? Better close that stinking mouth of yours before it gets bent...

ELEPHANTS IN WEST AFRICA

Elephant ivories were readily available all over West Africa because their range covers the forests and the savanahs of East west and south Africa. So how do you tell the origin of an ivory carved in the 16th century? To this day there are still elephants in Nigeria and the rest of West Africa so no one can say it comes from Aba; that's starting another controversy.There is absolutely no elephant particular to Aba; DNA or otherwise As a matter of fact one of the reason for the Benin invasion was to gain access to the ivory trade along the oil river. Benin did not steal ivory from Aba, most probably purchased by royal crafstmen. In Yorubaland elephants are part of the folklore and culture.People are referred to as son of an elephant. Elephants also have local names like erin and ajanaku.

TO ALL YOU CRYING OVER THE TUSKS FROM ABA

Nobody ever said elephants were present in benin. They are talking about a mask made OUT OF IVORY!!!The ivory could be from Aba or anywhere else(the benin kingdom was a vast kingdom still reverred by the queen of england till today)..so, It is obvious that it was a remarkable piece of art coupled with the fact that it was made of ivory that made it precious. Stop saying "Return the ivory to its natural soil"..it doesnt belong to ABA!! Return ur gold watches to sierraleone or south africa now...to its natural soil....msheww...

Se them, ready to claim...Nonsense...

ABA IVORY TUSK & BENIN CLAIMS

I do not want to engage in fruitless banter. For those who claim to have read History. I do not know where you read your history and who taught you! If the history is the revised version that taught you that Mungo Park discovered the River Niger, then your 'degree' is only fir for the trash can. Why don't you consulr your Palace historians and use the analytical tools taught you at school to discover the hodge podge that the Edo tradition is and how it borrowed gratly from the Yoruba and Igbo. Of course as a client civilisation, it is time that the Edo paid their dues. This is is the real History!

My friend,good and patriotic

My friend,good and patriotic Nigerians are out there trying to get those oyibos to return our stolen artefacts,you are on the net sprewing hatred.Be informed that there were elephants in Edo.For example, there is a great hunter in my community who killed up to 20 elephants in our forests up till the 80's.l am a graduate of History,l do not remember reading that the Binis went to Aba Ngwa to get tusks.Please enlighten me

ivory mask

I was looking forward to seeing an ivory mask..but what you displayed as an ivory mask is a wooden mask!

My friend,good and patriotic

My friend,good and patriotic Nigerians are out there trying to get those oyibos to return our stolen artefacts,you are on the net sprewing hatred.Be informed that there were elephants in Edo.For example, there is a great hunter in my community who killed up to 20 elephants in our forests up till the 80's.l am a graduate of History,l do not remember reading that the Binis went to Aba Ngwa to get tusks.Please enlighten me

Has our government even taken

Has our government even taken any stance whatsoever on this issue?

IVORY TUSK IS FROM ABA NOT BENIN

Ancient Benin did not have any Elephants. The forests of Aba Ngwa were pillaged for Elephant tusks that has given Benin its historical importance. This Ivory tusk is crying for return to Nativitym Please return it to the Museum at Aba where it will reunit with the soil that nourished it. The Abia State Government should announce its stake. This charade has gone on for too long!

ENYIMBA ABA ELEPHANT IVORY TUSKS

To God be the glory for the stoppage of the sale! The question of what to do with the artefact is germaine at this time. There never were any Elephants in Old Benin Empire. The Elephant Enyimba City was raided for Ivory tusks of its renowned Elephants. These so called 'Benin Ivory tusks' are crying for a resting place at the Museum at Aba, their nativity. Please return them to Abia State Government for proper care.
TRUTHBETOLD

Thank you saharareporters and NLF

A big thank you to Sahara Reporters and the NLF for bringing out attention to the planned auction.
Power really does resides in the hands of the people.

IF YOU THINK YOU KNOW NAIJA, THINK AGAIN

This is good news. However, the next question is what happens when it is returned to Benin? Can any body guarantee that it would not be stolen by politicians, the powerful and even some so-called Benin high chiefs since Nigerians have now known how much price it can sell for? Can anybody guarantee that it would not be secretly sold by the rich and powerful in Benin (as many items used in local shrines in the past are aggressively being stolen and sold by the same edo people to whitemen since 1990), and the proceeds used to buy Mercedes, fashionable lace materials to show off and spray dollars and pounds at parties, and of course also to lavish on heavy-buttocked madams? Believe me, the looting and re-selling of local native shrines with calabashes, cowries and other ritual paraphernalia is a very lucrative business in Edo state and Nigeria. I sincerely hope the same thing won't happen to these masks. Otherwise, we all will have wasted our energies with these protests.

IS THIS MASK OUR PRIORITY?

I wish to commend the efforts of Nigerians who made much 'noise' to ensure that the Benin 'wood' sorry artefact was not auctioned. But what baffles me clearly is the attitude of we, Nigerians, who dissipate our energies on worthless things when the real issue is daring us on the face. We all witness how our politicians are holding us and our commonwealth to ransome. By now, it is expected that we should have made these politicians as uncomfortable as the sellers of this Benin masquerade have been made to feel. We have a funny way of venting our anger in another direction while our problems are pile up in another direction waiting for us. I implore the organizers of this to stand up and mobilize Nigerians towards making life unbearable and uncomfortable for our common oppressors - policians. I don't think this 'wood' is a priority to Nigerians who have been peuperized by our politicians.

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