Dan Hicks calls for western museums to wash their hands of colonial blood. This carefully argued book reframes the current global dialogue about cultural restitution and repatriation
Walk into any European 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 stolen.
Few artefacts embody this history of rapacious and extractive colonialism better than the Benin Bronzes — a collection of thousands of brass plaques and carved ivory tusks 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 story of the Benin Bronzes sits at the heart of a heated debate about cultural restitution, repatriation and the decolonisation of museums. In The Brutish Museums, Dan Hicks makes a powerful case for the urgent return of such objects, as part of a wider project of addressing the outstanding debt of colonialism.
About the author: Dan Hicks is Professor of Contemporary Archaeology at the University of Oxford, Curator of World Archaeology at the Pitt Rivers Museum, and a Fellow of St Cross College, Oxford.
Dan will be chairing the Museum Ideas 2022 conference at the Museum of London.
The Brutish Museums: The Benin Bronzes, Colonial Violence and Cultural Restitution
£7.99 — £20.00
The book that changed the conversation on the contemporary museum:
‘Best Art Books’ 2020 – New York Times
‘Essential’ – Sunday Times
‘Brilliantly enraged’ – New York Review of Books
‘A real game-changer’ – Economist