Black v Black Culture War....Our Suffering is Worse Than Theirs!
A group of African Americans has filed a lawsuit to stop the return of some Benin Bronzes from the Smithsonian Museum in Washington DC to Nigeria.
They claim that the bronzes - looted by British colonialists in the 19th Century from the kingdom of Benin in what is now Nigeria - are also part of the heritage of descendants of slaves in America, and that returning them would deny them the opportunity to experience their culture and history.
|June 5, 2023 2:50 PM
The American blacks have a losing argument.
|January 21, 2023 9:13 AM
Only a person living a charmed and comfortable life has time in the day to even think about this for ten seconds let alone complain
|January 21, 2023 9:15 AM
Being a Black American myself and having traveled recently to Nigeria, I did begin to realize what a unique subset Black Americans and our history are in the overall global experience of black people. Most black people in the world DO NOT have a history of slavery in their ancestry. The first Black US president did not have any slave ancestry. This history of slavery was once something I was embarrassed about growing up in the US, but now I see the survival of it produced some amazing culturally important things that have a huge impact on the human experience overall - Jazz, Blues, Soul, Gospel, the genesis of Rock, Hip Hop, comedy and tragedy. It was a mix of our African roots and the pressure of centuries of slavery that produced a diamond of a culture that expresses something universally human that has taken over the world. Living in Europe now, I see the impact of a specifically Black American culture on the world through music, dance, clothing, entertainment and beyond. The white kids here eat it up and use it as a means to express themselves and their independence, their "coolness." Even the Queen of England was lobbying for the return of Snoop Dogg into the country to perform at her Grandson's birthday. I used to think it was just a black thing but it is specifically a Black American thing. Of course other black cultures such as Caribbean, Jamaican, have had a huge impact too but not quite as large as the African American experience.
Even young Nigerians embrace a specifically African American expression in the way they dress and act. You can see the influence of our culture in every area of the globe from Asia, to Europe, Africa to South America.
|January 21, 2023 11:45 AM
Is that ramble, R3, related to the topic at hand? If so would you mind stated it plainly for those of us too dim to make the connection. Thanks hun.
|January 21, 2023 11:51 AM
yes R4. "This Black v Black Culture War" is not about suffering it's about what belongs to one culture over another. And since these bronzes were part of the formation of the African American culture that has swept the world, they should stay right where they are. They have more relevance here than they would in Nigeria.
|January 21, 2023 12:00 PM
Yeah no. These pieces were purchased by a Lavian Jewish immigrant to New York, who became rich, and kept in his private collection until the 1970s. They had been stolen by British colonialist armies. They were sold on the private market. They have NEVER been part of the formation of the African American culture. You pulled that straight out of your ass because it doesn't have shit all to do with history of these objects.
|January 21, 2023 12:07 PM
Ya got me r6. You are so right. You can re-attach your oxygen tank and return your regularly scheduled The Price is Right. I think what the museum has been able to work out is just. The transfer of ownership has been returned to Nigeria but they remain on loan at the Smithsonian.
|January 21, 2023 12:16 PM
when so many nations choose to destroy their own relics of history because of alleged ownership of antiquities... perhaps ownership shouldn't be transferred.
Let alone the issues of the genocide taking place there... how long will it be before they're pawned off for weapons?
|January 21, 2023 12:32 PM
Deflect R7. hardeeharhar. Change your tune. Whatever. Still, these objects are NOT "part of the formation of the African American culture", which was your argument.
|January 21, 2023 12:53 PM
It's not included in this article, but part of the controversy is that the Benin bronzes were commissioned by leaders who benefited from the 19th century slave trade, and paid for them from the proceeds of slave sales. Arguments about their repatriation started around the question of whether the descendants of slave sellers in Africa had more of a right to the bronzes than the descendants of slaves in America, whose sale and enslavement paid for them.
|January 21, 2023 1:26 PM
My argument R9 was that this discussion was not about suffering if you actually read my post, it's about what belongs to one culture or another. Whether these statues ultimately fit into this discussion or not was NOT the point of my argument. They were ancillary examples of it. But as you pointed out, I was wrong to use them as an example because they were not part of the popular culture. That my dear is what you can take away from what I have said so far.
|January 21, 2023 1:26 PM
R10 here... Just to clarify... The bronzes themselves are 13th century pieces from the Edo period. The families/government they were looted from in the 19th century benefited from slavery and slave sales.
|January 21, 2023 1:31 PM
R10 wrong again. The bronzes were created for Royalty of Benin starting in the 13th century. LONG BEFORE the "19th century slave trade." The royalty may have been slave traders, sure. So were the royalties of many countries.
The 19th Century is 1800-1899. The slave trade to the USA stopped in 1808.
|January 21, 2023 1:34 PM
R13 you are wrong about the slave trade stopping in 1808. Yes an act of congress prohibited the importation of slaves. But ships still came from Africa and their contents confiscated. So those ships still had slaves who were sold by Africans even if they were confiscated when they reached the Americas. AND a Domestic Slave Trade still continued in the United States well after 1808.
|January 21, 2023 1:39 PM
R13- I clarified at R12, but point taken. My original post was badly-written and erroneous.
There was an internal slave trade prior to European slavery, and that was part of the original argument about repatriation. but that, of course, gets complicated the further back you go. And yes, the vast majority of slaves on the middle passage went directly to Brazil and the Caribbean. The point is, the bronzes are in America now, and the debate is about whether they should be repatriated to Nigeria, not to Brazil or Cuba.
But to your point, America was involved in the slave trade right up until 1863 in part because pro-slavery officials/politicians were desperate to annex Cuba for slavery.
|January 21, 2023 1:43 PM
I'm not questioning the moral and legal catastrophe of American slavery. I'm questioning arguments that these pieces belong in the USA because of it.
Also the argument of "safe keeping" is weak, in my opinion. The British Museum has tried this on. But colonialism had "saving" and "save keeping" as one of its central (immoral and racist) justifications.
Also, in the art market, the argument of "legal purchase" is very persuasive and solid. That does not eliminate moral arguments but it can nullify them. To be precise, Hirshhorn's purchase may have been completely legal. On that grounds, despite the contention that the pieces are stolen, when they are subsequently passed years later in a legal purchase, many jurisdiction cease legal interest in the matter. Thus the pieces are legally owned by the USA, because they were a gift from an American who legally purchases them.
Repatriation of cultural property is very complex and you need to come to the debate with good, factually based arguments, even if you are arguing principally with moral arguments.
|January 21, 2023 1:52 PM
The pieces belong in the USA because Black Lives Matter is the kernel of an argument (a moral one) but it needs to be fully annotated with historical facts.
|January 21, 2023 1:56 PM
R17- I was disagreeing with the tone of the OP's commentary, which frames this as a petty squabble between descendants of slaves in the U.S. The reality is that the history and the present-day debates about it are more nuanced. Descendants of slavery do have some moral claim on the wealth (including the artwork) of African leaders whose families benefited from their ancestors' enslavement. The provenance of the bronzes between 1897 and now, while certainly an example of colonial theft and central to repatriation in a narrower sense, are not the full story.
|January 21, 2023 2:01 PM
OK. And I was objecting to the sloppy history presented by a few posters, as content for the moral argument.
Personally I say IT ALL GOES BACK - stolen loot - and its a huge mess around the world, or none of it goes back and we create ways to move forward.
Among the remaining wonders on MOST CONTINENTS, there are wonders built by slaves or financed on slave labour. Should it all be dismantled and shipped back? To where, exactly? So many regions have provided slaves to conquering nations.
|January 21, 2023 2:09 PM
Sovereignty > sadness over not seeing them in a convenient museum.
See: the imminent return of the Elgin Marbles.
|January 21, 2023 2:26 PM
I think the bronzes should be returned to Nigeria. They're stolen goods.
|January 21, 2023 2:28 PM
[quote]Personally I say IT ALL GOES BACK - stolen loot - and its a huge mess around the world, or none of it goes back and we create ways to move forward.
[quote]Sovereignty > sadness over not seeing them in a convenient museum. See: the imminent return of the Elgin Marbles.
These statements raise interesting questions. Here in Italy there are at least eight Egyptian Obelisks there were taken, some over two thousand years ago. We are all aware of their origin and how they came to be in Rome. After 2,000 years, should those go back as well? Is there a line we draw in the sands of time? Or should everything be repatriated?
|January 21, 2023 5:07 PM
Once it is repatriated. It's time for Step 2. Did Nubian slaves make the Obelisks? Where they from present day Sudan? OK, ship them further on to Sudan. Oh, wait, slaves in Egypt were also from Europe and Caucasus. Let's cut the Obelisks in half then? Ship them on to Turkey and Georgia and.....
Round and round we go. Where we stop, nobody knows.
|January 21, 2023 5:14 PM
R20- OP is a troll, clearly. And I defer to your far superior intellect.
|January 22, 2023 11:36 AM
Just drop them off at the Nigerian border and whoever grabs them, gets them. That answer is not as silly as it sounds since it is not a simple question to determine the current”rightful” owner of such things. Is it the current tribe having the same name as the artifact creators, the current leader of the country even if a corrupt dictator or the descendants of those who were in possession of the artifacts, rightful or not, at the time they were taken? “
|January 22, 2023 12:51 PM
This reminds me of an episode of The Simpsons where stolen art worth millions were returned to the rightful owner…a piece of shit who had no appreciation for the art.
Even if these artifacts are returned, they’ll be sold off by corrupt governments and politicians, not put in museums.
|January 22, 2023 1:01 PM
I'm sure the treasures will be in good hands at the Nigerian National Museum.
|January 22, 2023 1:05 PM
R28- There are 52 separate branches of the National Museum in Nigeria, which have preservation resources and trained preservation staff from the best preservation/conservation/curatorial programs in the world.
You, on the other hand, are bored, and did a Google search for the least-flattering image you could find to represent the cultural resources of a country I'm assuming you've never visited. Which is also a kind of accomplishment. Good for you.
|January 22, 2023 6:00 PM
R28- The Nigerian National Museum has 52 separate branches with modern preservation facilities and technologies, staffed by accomplished curators and preservation specialists from some of the most prestigious museum programs in the world.
And you, feeling silly and bored, did a Google search for the least-flattering image of one of those buildings to discredit the cultural resources of an entire nation that you have likely never visited. Which is also a kind of accomplishment. Good for you.
|January 22, 2023 6:58 PM
Apologies for the double post.
|January 22, 2023 6:59 PM
Benin is present day Nigeria.
Are the Restitution Organization claiming to be descended from Nigerian slaves? Why should one group of Blacks with likely no connection to Benin feel entitled to take and keep artefacts that don't belong to them.
Restitution Organization is no different to White colonialists.
|January 23, 2023 10:19 PM
r33 is an interesting read
|June 5, 2023 12:20 PM
Isn't there an internal controversy about whom the pieces would go to Nigeria? I think a descendant of the ruler who commissioned or otherwise had a claim to the pieces is claiming that they should be returned to him.
Also, last I herd the wing that was being created specifically for the collection was held up due to disruptions in the funding.
Im not saying that to disparage Nigeria. Just to point out the complexity of the process.
|June 5, 2023 12:39 PM
Wow. These look like a triple Darth Vadar. Did that culture create the look of Darth Vadar, which was appropriated? That's the real story here! Star Wars culturally appropriated the look of Darth Vadar from this artwork. Does anyone else see it?
|June 5, 2023 2:50 PM