The Lagos State government has made a formal request to the British Museum in London for the return of the ‘Lander Stool’, an extremely important sculptural wood carving believed to have been taken from Nigeria in 1830.
Steve Ayorinde, the state’’s Commissioner for Tourism, Arts and Culture, made this request on behalf of governor Akinwunmi Ambode at the just concluded symposium on Emerging Museums Project
“The Lander Stool is a material representation of the earliest contacts between Britain and the Yoruba. It is highly appropriate that it should be displayed in this new heritage space that the Lagos State Government has made possible,” Dr. Will Rea of the University of Leeds.
Prof. Rowland Abiodun, a prominent Nigerian academic at Amherst College in the US also described the Stool as “highly significant in the colonial story”.
The Stool is currently in storage in the British Museum. It was taken by one of the earliest known British explorers in Africa, Richard Lander, who was instrumental in pioneering colonisation of Nigeria.
When returned the Stool will be the centerpiece to the opening exhibition planned for the new cultural facility in Onikan, the John K. Randle Centre for Yoruba Culture and History, 85% complete and to be opened to the public before May 2019.
Richard Lander was a celebrated figure in the UK and received the Royal Geographical Society Founder’s Medal in 1832, but died of a musket ball wound, after he was shot by inhabitants defending their territory during his final trip through the South-West region.
There is a Lander Street — apparently named after Mr Lander — in the historic slavery town of Badagry on the western tip of Lagos.
Edo State Governor Godwin Obaseki, who also attended the event, announced the intention of his government to formally seek the return of some Benin Bronze artefacts from various British museums once its new Royal Museum project is completed.
Both Lagos and Edo States were joined at the colloquium by Ghana to outline plans for their various new museum projects.
The J.K Randle Centre, says Ayorinde, is not just a world-class cultural institution but one “that will enable the Yoruba people to reclaim their heritage from a colonial narrative, and present for the first time a high standard cultural and resource centre for millions of people in the state.”
The Centre, he adds, will be a befitting and conducive gallery space that can host on a permanent basis some of the Nigerian artefacts expected to be returned from Europe and America.