600-year-old Ife Terracotta returned to Nigeria

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The Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, has announced the repatriation of an Ife Terracotta, which was smuggled out of Nigeria with a forged document to the Netherlands, through Ghana in 2019.

The Minister disclosed this on Thursday in the company of the Ambassador of Netherlands to Nigeria, Mr. Harry Van Dijk, and the Foreign Affairs Minister, Mr. Geoffrey Onyeama.

Lai Mohammed said that the repatriation of the sculptures was a milestone in Nigeria’s efforts to seek the return of the country’s antiques.

“It gives me profound joy to receive this very important antiquity, an Ife Terracotta, which is dated to be at least 600 years old. I am even more delighted that our efforts at pursuing the return of Nigerian antiquities, which we launched last November, have started yielding fruits,” Mohammed said.


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He said that the FG’s interest to repatriate Nigerian artifacts was influenced by the need to diversify the economy through tourism. The Dutch customs, following the interception of the artifact at Schiphol Airport, invited Nigeria to prove her case against the suspected smuggler, which the country did successfully.

“Let me state here that Nigeria believes in joint international efforts to put a stop to illicit export and import of cultural goods,” he said.

The Director-General of the National Commission for Museums and Monuments, Prof. Abba Isa-Tijjani, has taken custody of the artefact for cleaning and treatment at the Conversation Laboratory, before its eventual display to the public

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What you should know 

Dating over 600 years old, Ife terracotta works constitute a large and diverse corpus that includes sculptures and vessels depicting human, animal, and otherworldly subjects. These works vary in size from nearly life-sized full-length figures to tiny figurines, only six inches high and range in style from extreme naturalism to abstract forms.

Nairametrics also reported that the Governor of Edo State, Godwin Obaseki, stated that his administration was bracing up to build a museum, as discussions were underway for several returns of Benin Bronze from western museums and private collectors in 2021.

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