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The Brutish Museums: The Benin Bronzes, Colonial Violence and Cultural Restitution

The Brutish Museums: The Benin Bronzes, Colonial Violence and Cultural Restitution cover

The Brutish Museums: The Benin Bronzes, Colonial Violence and Cultural Restitution

By  Dan Hicks
$ 17.95
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New York Times 'Best Art Books' 2020
'Essential' – Sunday Times
'Brilliantly enraged' - New York Review of Books
'A real game-changer'– Economist

Walk into any Western museum today and you will see the curated spoils of Empire. They sit behind plate glass: dignified, tastefully lit. Accompanying pieces of card offer a name, date and place of origin. They do not mention that the objects are all stolen.

Few artefacts embody this history of rapacious and extractive colonialism better than the Benin Bronzes - a collection of thousands of metal plaques and sculptures depicting the history of the Royal Court of the Obas of Benin City, Nigeria. Pillaged during a British naval attack in 1897, the loot was passed on to Queen Victoria, the British Museum and countless private collections.

The Brutish Museums sits at the heart of a heated debate about cultural restitution, repatriation and the decolonisation of museums. Since its first publication, museums across the western world have begun to return their Bronzes to Nigeria, heralding a new era in the way we understand the objects of empire we once took for granted.

Dan Hicks is Professor of Contemporary Archaeology at the University of Oxford, Curator at the Pitt Rivers Museum, and a Fellow of St Cross College, Oxford. His award-winning research focuses on decolonisation in art and culture, and academic disciplines, and on the role of cultural whiteness in ongoing histories of colonial violence and dispossession.