By Imelda Osayande
Benin – The U. S. Consul General, Mr John Bray has said that the Benin arts and cultural heritage remains the best in Africa.
Bray said this on Friday when the U.S. Ambassador to Nigeria, Mr Williams Stuart led a team to the palace of Oba Ewuare II in Benin.
He told the monarch that they were in his palace to inform him of the Solomon Alonge exhibition of African arts by Smithsonian National Museum in Benin.
Alonge (1911–1994) is one of Nigeria’s premiere photographers and the first official photographer of the royal court of Benin, Nigeria.
“The Benin arts and cultural heritage remains the best in Africa,” Bray said adding that the United States had already set up fund for the revitalisation of museums in Nigeria.
Earlier, Stuart told the Oba that he and his delegation were in Benin for the historical grand opening of Alonge exhibition at National Museum.
Stuart said the event which he described as first of its kind was sponsored by U.S. government and Heritage bank.
In his response, Oba Ewuare said that the uniqueness of the Benin art, culture and traditional heritage was yet to be surpassed or dominated by the rest of the world.
Ewuare said that the exhibition of African art by Nigerians in Diaspora in Benin marked the beginning of cultural intellectuals.
He expressed optimism the alleged Benin art works `forcefully snatched’’ abroad would be brought home.
He canvassed for the establishment of more cultural centres for art, traditions and cultural heritage of Nigeria across all parts of the country so as to regain the lost societal values and norms especially among the new generation.
The Benin monarch, who also spoke on the impact of climate change, urged global leaders to develop a stronger blue print to control environmental pollution rather than display strength through nuclear weapons.
Oba Ewuare explained that African countries and other nations in conflict were on the receiving end of the negative aftermaths of wars.
While cautioning world leaders to achieve peace, the Oba also called on U.S. government and European countries to return all the artifacts illegally carted away from Benin kingdom during the European evasion of 13th century.
Highlight of the visit was offer of prayers by the monarch to his ancestors for the safe return of all looted artifacts from Benin kingdom during the invasion by colonial masters in the 13th century.
NAN reports that Alonge’s work spans half a century and presents a dynamic continuous record of the reigns of Oba Akenzua II (1933–78) and late Oba Erediauwa and the political and social events surrounding the royal palace.
For five decades, Alonge photographed the royal wives and children, visiting dignitaries and politicians, and annual festivals and court ceremonies from a unique insider’s perspective. (NAN)