Museum Security Network

MODERNITY AND TRADITION: PEJU LAYIWOLA. Those who saw the exhibition, Benin: Kings and Rituals – Court Arts from Nigeria would be familiar with the name and writings of Peju Layiwola. She contributed a piece, “The Benin Massacre: Memories and Experience”, to the excellent catalogue of the exhibition, edited by Barbara Plankensteiner, Museum of Ethnology, Vienna.

In the interview reproduced below from the Nigerian paper, Vanguard, Dr. Layiwola speaks about her work as a teacher at the University of Lagos and as a metal caster. She also refers to the continued debate on the restitution of the Benin bronzes that were looted by the British during the invasion of Benin City in 1897. Peju is particularly qualified in this matter, being from the Benin Royal Family as well as being an Art Historian who appreciates the significance of icons. She mentions Benin casters having to look at pictures and catalogues in order to recreate classical models most of which are in the British Museum and elsewhere in the United States and Europe. How would Westerners feel if their creative artists had to look at catalogues and pictures of classical models because the originals were locked up in African and Asian museums? Requests have been made for returning some of the looted bronzes but so far there has not been any reaction, not even a simple acknowledgement. Instead, the American and European museums are more concerned with finding justifications for their continued detention of the stolen Benin artefacts.

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