Stolen African Art from Benin Up for Auction at Sotheby’s?

December 24, 2010 § 5 Comments

Benin Mask picturing Queen Idia of the Ancient Kingdom of Benin

A 16th century Benin mask, whose image was famously used as the symbol of FESTAC ’77 (World Black and African Festival of Arts and Culture) is about to be auctioned off at Sotheby’s in London – unless a group of determined Africans can stop it. Efforts have been ongoing for years to have the mask, which is said to represent the face of Queen Idia, the first Queen mother of Benin, be returned along with hundreds of other priceless artifacts looted from the Kingdom of Benin in 1897 during a “Punitive” invasion by the British. But what galls many African art historians now is that the descendants of Lt. Col. Sir Henry Gallwey (later changed to Galway) are putting the mask, together with 5 other precious Benin art works, up for sale in ¬†February 2011 and hoping to get millions of pounds from them. Problem is, say historians, it’s stolen property.

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