“Vermisst in Benin” is an artistic intervention that seeks to accelerate and actualize the narrative around the reparation of the Benin artefacts currently in possession of the Museum für Völkerkunde Dresden. The reparation dialogue to date has been ineffective in returning the artefacts to their original home of Benin, Nigeria. I created the “Vermisst in Benin” intervention out of a sense of impatience and necessity, aiming to frame the stagnant and abstract discourse surrounding colonial reparations with the urgency and gravity of a public service announcement.
Taking to the streets of Dresden with posters declaring “Missing Benin Bronzes”, I hope to demystify what has become an elitist dialogue confined to the museum and arts sector. In moving into the public domain with the instantly recognizable format of a missing poster, I hope to reclaim this issue as a postcolonial and societal responsibility. No one is exempt from the repercussions of colonialism and as long as issues of agency, ownership and freedom continue to exist, the society must act as a whole to repatriate artefacts that are simply not theirs.
These posters are a call to action, a transparent and clear message that can be understood and digested by all. Missing posters rely upon a missing variable: the missing object itself or the location an object should be returned to, in many ways this intervention highlights the absurdity of why these artefacts still remain in the museum, when their origin and their current location are both public knowledge. In their cooperation with the project, the Museum für Völkerkunde Dresden opens up the dialogue for a new way forward, one which does not hide or shy away from the clear and damning facts.
“Vermisst in Benin” is a profound approach to a conversation that has simply gone on too long and one which belongs firmly in the public consciousness.
Emeka Ogboh, Artist