BENIN CITY – Former Edo Commissioner, for Arts, Culture and Diaspora Affairs, Hon. Osaze Osemwengie-Ero has said the Edo Festival of Arts and Culture (EdoFEST), organized in 2018, played a pivotal role in raising awareness for the return of the Benin artefacts.
Osemwengie-Ero, who disclosed this in a chat with journalists, said he was on assignment to Europe for the return of the artefacts when he was wrongly arrested, adding that he was proud of the progress made in the effort to return the artefacts.
According to him, “We have done a lot of work. We travelled from London to Austria until the day I was arrested. I was on official duty to Berlin on the same issue. I was invited by the Nigerian Ambassador to Germany, Ambassador Yusuf Tuggar. We created a lot of awareness as well.”
Noting that he committed his time while he was a commissioner to the pursuit of the return of the art pieces, he said, “In 2018, the Edo Festival for Arts and Culture codenamed EDOFEST was organized by the Edo State Government. We did a photo exhibition of the stolen artefacts with locations in Europe and America. This exhibition was also done in the palace of His Royal Majesty, the Oba of Benin and to showcase the affected artefacts to the world.
“There have been a lot of meetings on our own part as the government and other individuals were creating a lot of awareness for people to know that these artefacts have to be returned.
The feedback from the EDOFEST we did was very good. We wanted to put more pressure on the Europeans and Americans that those artefacts needed to be returned.”
He continued: “Durikng the exhibitions, we had a lot of visitors. It coincided with the Oba’s anniversary, and a lot of visitors who came were at the exhibition hall to look at the artefacts. And we have feedback as well that people who visit those museums where they are at the moment would always identify them as artefacts from the Benin kingdom which should be repatriated.”
He noted that there is a lot of work to be done and Governor Godwin Obaseki has continued to pursue the struggle because he is an ardent believer and lover of Edo culture and tourism.