St Paul’s enters culture cancellation debate by installing Nigerian artwork next to plaque of Admiral who led looting of Benin Bronzes


“History never sleeps or slumbers,” Ehikhamenor said. “For me to respond to the memorial brass of Admiral Sir Harry Holdsworth Rawson who led British troops in the sacking of the Kingdom of Benin 125 years ago is proof of that.

“I hope that we, the descendants of countless thorny and uncomfortable pasts, will begin to have meaningful and balanced conversations through projects like this.”

Still Standing is a mixed media work, featuring rosaries as well as 21st century bronze hip ornament masks. It portrays the Oba of Benin and raises questions about memory, reparation and the lasting legacies and losses of colonial warfare.

Responding to his latest work of art, the Dean of St Paul’s, the Very Reverend Dr David Ison, said Ehikhamenor’s work “contributes to the continuing task of understanding the complexity of these monuments in 21st-century Britain. century”.

Dr Paula Gooder, Canon Chancellor of St. is not intended to engage in controversy but to provide an opportunity to reflect in a different way on the ongoing task of understanding the complexities of these monuments in 21st century Britain”.

She said: “As a public place of worship, it is our responsibility to connect with a wide range of different people and to provide an open and welcoming place of worship for all. So it’s an important part of our job to analyze our history and reflect on it honestly as we move forward.

“We are only at the start of a new conversation about the British Empire”

Professor Dan Hicks, professor of contemporary archeology at the University of Oxford, curated the specially commissioned artwork alongside Simon Carter, head of the cathedral’s collections.

He said: “As many people have suggested, we are only at the start of a new national conversation about the enduring history of the British Empire.

“These are stories that we hardly teach in our schools, but are very important to contemporary Britain. Admiral Rawson’s memorial has existed for over a century with his text documenting how he “commanded the Benin Expedition and the Capture of Benin in 1897”.

“The 125th anniversary of this attack offers an opportunity to reflect on its legacy, so this art installation raises questions about what we choose as a society to remember, how to remember, who is remembered and who does the remembering.

“As the debate over the restitution of the Benin bronzes continues, the acquisition also reminds us that world culture museums can legally commission and acquire contemporary Nigerian art as well as return what has been looted in the past. .”

Professor Hicks is also curator of world archeology at the Pitt Rivers Museum in Oxford – a cultural institution that displays hundreds of thousands of objects now considered the spoils of colonialism – and which holds one of the most important collections of Beninese royal works of art.

It is not the first time that controversial monuments in places of worship have been the subject of debate.

Last week the Archbishop of Canterbury suggested that a Cambridge college memorial to a slavery-related donor be removed.

The Very Reverend Justin Welby first got into the debate surrounding Tobias Rustat’s plaque, asking, “Why is it so painful to remove a slavery memorial?”

His comments before the General Synod on Tuesday came amid an ongoing battle in the Consistory Court over the memorial to the 17th-century royal courtier at Jesus College, Cambridge. Controversy surrounds Tobias Rustat’s role as an investor in businesses linked to the slave trade.


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