Image for post
Image for post
Part of the Benin bronze collection that was stolen and is now housed in the British Museum

Why Colonial Theft Is More Than a History Lesson

It’s a crime against humanity

The news out of Nigeria is rarely positive — in fact it’s all shit. From the herdsmen terrorizing local government areas over land ownership and religion, which is not only halting farming, and leading to starvation, but also producing a massive death count— to the direly impoverished climate that has gotten so bad that the most populous country in Africa has officially surpassed India in poverty ranking.

Growing up during the gangster era of the eighties and nineties, I was privy to the gross negligence of the military regimes that featured pompous and greedy dictators, that cared nothing about protecting the interests of citizens, and in fact collaborated with foreign oil companies to ensure the consistent supply of resources remained interrupted.

That loyalty and practice is ongoing, and it’s regulated at the expense of natives who are drowning in the squalor of oil spills and floods from rigs that aren’t positioned in ways that allow the surrounding environments to thrive. And so the Nigerian government turns a blind eye to villagers who are being hampered by unlivable quarters that not only prevents them from fishing — but also poses a threat to their health.

Ken Saro-Wowa, was a crusader who hailed from Ogoniland in the Niger Delta — the epicenter of oil activity. He was a writer and environmentalist, and he used his influence to seriously challenge the irresponsible extraction methods of the British-Dutch muiltinational oil and gas company, Royal Dutch Shell.

He also publicly condemned President Sani Abacha for his disgraceful appetite for bribery and corruption.

Saro-Wiwa was ultimately arrested for the crime of assuming he was allowed the privilege of freedom of speech, and soon after he was hanged. His tragic death in 1995 serves as the evidence of how civilized nations that were former colonial masters, methodically collude with incompetent leaders, in a quest to maintain the structures that were instituted to derail any hopes for our progression.

When the British invaders arrived in Nigeria, they came under the disguise of enlightenment. We were seen as aimless brutes with a culture that needed to be updated; but only to help facilitate future plans. Christianity and Queen’s English became the treasure we earned in exchange for our natural resources that are still being used against us.

In school, we were taught about the the invaluable gift of White missionaries, grooming us into ladies and gents while also eradicating the fundamentals of our existence, that our forefathers had painstakingly drafted under the spiritual guidance of primal forces that could overwhelm any of the characters in the bible.

But, in actuality, the real heroes were the rulers of kingdoms, who vehemently refused to hand over their gleaming thrones or the jewels that were fastened to the walls of tradition. And if provoked by the White men in funny clothes, the fight was going to be passionate and deadly.

The worst did happen when the tide turned against us.

Colonial masters took ownership of our gorgeous land, bloated with the riches of a people that were born to be worshipped, but tragically succumbed to the virus of supreme Whiteness, that comes with the privilege of how White folks are the only ones on earth who truly deserve good things.

Centuries later, after the invasions and attacks on our welfare, the longterm damage is devastating. The infection permanently damaged instinctual tendencies that were supposed to enhance our ability to guide ourselves.

The resultant of having White men callously hack the blueprint of our mastered allotment has been the legacy of never-ending tribal wars that almost ruined The Igbo people (my tribe) into extinction during the laborious Biafran war that waged from 1967–1970.

The British helped to fuel Nigeria’s one and only civil war after they armed the Northern region with prosperity that was disproportionally more generous compared to other territories — via close proximity to the goldmine of oil wells.

So, of course our former colonial masters had no choice but to support Nigeria in the mission of defeating defectors who were tired of being mismanaged and short-changed — and therefore felt it best to carve out a personalized territory — that would allow us to thrive, based on the strength of our intelligence and entrepreneurial skills.

The Biafran war may have ended almost fifty years ago, but the bloody race to the top is still a messy affair. And when you include the vast wasteland of pollution from the foreign companies that need to be fed at all cost, as well as the duty of calculating the astronomical cost of stolen goods and services, that’s when you understand why colonial theft is way more than a history lesson.

It’s a crime against humanity.

We can’t afford to enjoy the riches we were blessed with because we of the self-hatred that was instilled in us back when we were brutalized for daring to take pride in our dark templates, and the healing properties of the ground that supplied refined dirt for bathing and spices.

We bleach our skin to be White and we burn our hair to be straight.

But, even with all the vices of self-elimination that permeates within the capillaries of our dying society, we are still entitled to the dignity of being refunded for all that historical anguish, that was exacted without consideration for the irreversible consequences.

We simply want our shit back. All of it.

It has been confirmed that Nigeria is formally asking the British Museum to return the intricate collection of gems — that were brutally stolen after the Oba (King) of Benin was successfully overthrown. And as a reward for victory, the British forces helped themselves to what has been described as “the finest art of sub-Saharan Africa, particularly bronze heads and plaques, traditionally called bronzes but made of brass.”

The British Museum currently has possession of at least 700 items from the Benin expedition, which are aptly displayed with the audacity of the privilege that furnished the home where they don’t belong.

Evidently, this isn’t the first time the federal government of Nigeria alongside the Benin royal court have tried to file a claim with the British Museum, in an effort to get back the priceless gems, that are still being replicated by the descendants of the anointed ones, who carved etches of undying love for country.

But, the fight to reclaim what’s ours has been derailed by those who can’t bear the thought of parting with the pure and shiny representatives of what is essentially British imperialism.

The whole point was to dust off the ornaments that were supposedly being abused by nature, and treat them to a more dignified alternative, that will ultimately benefit the non-inclusive art world.

Museum curators are reluctant to consider a scenario that relieves them of the prestige of owning “one-of-a-kind” pieces, that they’re certain weren’t taken in the violent manner that history has recorded.

And with that being said — the trustees of the British Museum have graciously agreed to keep an open mind— which means they will “always consider loan requests, subject to usual conditions.”

What the hell does that even mean?

The saga continues, and while I’m the last person to express confidence in the negotiation skills of Nigerian representatives, it looks like the Nigerian-based committee in charge of working with a select group of European museums, known as the Benin Dialogue, is steadfastly trying to reach an agreement that will initiate the “long-term loan” of “some” of the gorgeous objects of Benin descent.

This might seem like somewhat of a victory, but as someone who lived through the period of tumultuous governing that included numerous military coups, and the level of chaos that is best described as inhumane, the idea of “loaning” a collection of items to natives who need to be rightfully compensated for centuries of outright betrayal, seems despicably outrageous.

Colonialism wasn’t just a shitty move because of the way it tragically forced Nigerians to indefinitely act out the episodes in Westworld, where the hosts are programmed to destroy each other until every limb has been torn apart.

It was also a dangerous endeavor that was purposed to keep world powers on top while guaranteeing polluted stagnancy for former colonies, who never stood a chance against the partnership between industrialized nations and money-hungry dictators of struggling countries.

These bastards are more than eager to kill off their own people in exchange for pieces of the pie that’s supposed to be devoured by those who deserve the blessings of their birthright.

Yes, of course we shouldn’t have to beg for what we already own, but the currency of White privilege and the supremacy that gives White people the capacity to shame us, by promising that they’re in a better position to harbor the crown jewels of a monarchy that they callously vanquished, with the authority that gave the British monarchy the upper hand, is still very much viable.

The items that are being bargained with aren’t just fancy sculptures with cultural significance. They are the proof and illustration of a time when our deities were pure and primal. It recalls the calm before the storm and the promise of a future that was etched in every nook and cranny.

It’s the Blackness that Whiteness distorted with tea and biscuits, and the incurable virus of a mutilated story that was never supposed to end this way.

But it did.

And — we still want our shit back. All of it. For good.

Written by

Juggling Wordsmith. I have a lot to say!

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store