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Alaghodaro 2022: Obaseki launches digital museum for Benin artefacts

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THE  Edo State Governor, Mr. Godwin Obaseki late Sunday,

launched Digital Benin website which he said is a platform with the largest digital collections of Benin artefact.

He said with the platform people could see 5,246 pieces  of artworks from Benin and other parts of the state adding that the Digital Benin is now the largest museum in the world for Benin collections.

Obaseki at the ceremony which is part of the events marking Alaghodaro 2022 Summit, at the Sir Victor Uwaifo Creative Hub, Airport Road, in Benin City was, however, silent on when the works would be physically repatriated and seen physically.

He said “We suggested having a catalog of all Benin artworks scattered around the world a while back. Today, I am so glad and fulfilled that five years on, we now have the digital records of 5,246 pieces of Benin and Edo artworks in 131 locations across the globe. This is a feat to be proud of". "Digital Benin is now the largest Museum in the world for Benin collections. It’s a virtual Museum which will tell you anything you need to know about Benin history and future. Go to the website and every piece of Benin artwork located anywhere in the world can be seen. You can see the artworks, the meaning and the locations."

"This is a significant milestone we have achieved. This project is very significant to the people of the kingdom. We thank Prof. Gregory Akenzua and members of the Benin Dialogue Group who, over the last two decades, have kept on the pressure and the dialogue on how to restitute and return the artworks taken away after the invasion of 1897."

"I  met the Benin Dialogue Group having this debate and discussion for the last 18 years and later joined them to ensure we achieve the aims of the group. We joined the group in 2017, and in 2018, we went outside the country to join the conversation and address the issues confronting the return of the art work."

"The invasion of the Kingdom destroyed our history which was unbroken for 1,000 years. It suddenly got broken and it’s taken us over a century to begin to understand our place in the world. For more than 100 years, our artworks have been with strangers who do not understand the import, significance and importance of these works."

"These works serve as our ambassador all over the world and the concern for us is ownership, as these are our properties taken from us, at least let it be returned so that we will have a legal title."

"This success is all about collaboration and the achievement gladdens our heart. I appreciate our European partners who have been really understanding, particularly the German, French and the Italian governments. The future is about technology and the Digital Benin rests on a technology platform.”

The Governor said the State Government is ready to continue to work with partners for continuation and sustainability of the Digital Benin website, noting: “We have designed a new cultural district for Edo State. Edo and Benin City is the natural cultural capital of West Africa. Within this cultural district, we would have a minimum of three museums and we already have one which will be upgraded while two others (The Benin Royal Museum and EMOWAA)."

Delivering his welcome address, Commissioner for Arts, Culture, Tourism and Diaspora Affairs, Hon. Prince Bamidele Obaitan, thanked the Governor of Edo State, Mr. Godwin Obaseki, for his visionary leadership style.

In her welcome address, the Director, Museum am Rothenbanm Kulturer and Kunste der Welt-MARKK, Prof. Dr. Barbara Plankensteiner, commended Governor Godwin Obaseki and the Oba of Benin for working hard to recover the stolen Benin artifacts scattered around the globe.

A member of the MARKK Team, Dr. Anne Luther, presented to the audience the Digital Benin website, noting that it is a place to visit to know more about the history of the Benin Kingdom.