Publication of provenance research into the Benin collections at the National Museum of World Cultures
Since 2019, the National Museum of World Cultures in the Netherlands has undertaken focused research into the provenance of the collections related to the Kingdom of Benin, and more specifically those artworks connected to the attack on, and looting of, Benin City in 1897. In recognition of this painful history and the consequent sense of loss that these artworks represent, we are making accessible the full extent of our research on all the collections historically attributed to the Kingdom of Benin. This is part of our commitment to transparency and to provide access to our collections and their histories.
The freely downloadable e-book presents our most up-to-date provenance research on the Benin City collections. It is based on the range of archival documents inside and outside the National Museum of World Cultures, biographical information and historical sources. In this manner it examines the way in which each artwork entered the collections, in order to contribute to research on Benin City collections and establish the nature of the link between these artworks with the military looting of Benin City in 1897.
In October 2020, the Dutch Council for Culture (Raad voor Cultuur) presented a report entitled ‘Colonial Collections and a Recognition of Injustice’. The museum acknowledges the systemic injustice that the looting of Benin City is part of, and the need for repair of this injustice as one of the tasks of the museum. The publication of The Benin Collections at the National Museum of World Cultures is a step in this process and an invitation for further dialogue and action.
For press: for images accompanying an article, press images can be requested via firstname.lastname@example.org , mention "image request Benin research".
The richly-illustrated first volume concerns existing collections such as missionary collections from the Afrika Museum, Chinese Buddha heads, a feather headdress from Papua New Guinea and a model ox cart from South Africa. But new acquisitions are also discussed, such as Kawahara Keiga's folding screen and Susan Stockwell's Territory Dress.
The forward was written by Chief Curator, Henrietta Lidchi, with Sarah Johnson, Curator Middle East and North Africa, and Wonu Veys, Curator Oceania, serving as the editors. Authors in this issue include: Rosalie Hans, Provenance Researcher, Karwin Cheung, Assistant Curator East and Central Asia National Museums Scotland, Erna Lilje, Junior Curator Western New Guinea, François Janse van Rensburg, Junior Curator South Africa, Davey Verhoeven, Research Associate RCMC/Japan, and Daan van Dartel, Curator Fashion and Popular Culture.
It is available in digital form for free here, download it below.