Mexico returns ancient bronze sculpture to Nigeria

The Mexican government, on Tuesday, delivered to Nigeria an ancient bronze sculpture seized by customs agents at Mexico City airport.

The Nigerian sculpture is of Yoruba origin. The sculpture, from the 6th century southwestern Yoruba city of Ile-Ife, shows a man wearing woven pants and a hat, sitting with his legs crossed and holding an instrument.

“Specialists from the National Institute of Anthropology and History determined that it was a piece of Yoruba origin,” Diego Prieto, head of the agency, told newsmen.

“A beautiful bronze piece, and that being of Nigerian heritage, it should return to its home.” Officials did not offer more details about the sculpture’s exact origins or the circumstances of its confiscation.

“It was also determined that it had been illegally exported,” the Mexican foreign ministry said.

The sculpture and its provenance were authenticated by experts and agencies of both countries, with the participation of specialists from the National Institute of Anthropology and History. It had been exported illegally.”

The statement added that returning the sculpture to Nigeria was part of Mexico’s commitment to protecting cultural heritage. “Mexico strongly opposes illicit trafficking in cultural property. By returning it to Nigeria, the government shows its commitment to protecting cultural heritage.”

Nigerian Ambassador Aminu Iyawa acknowledged the work of the Mexican authorities in recovering the sculpture.

According to the Government of Mexico's official website, the customs authorities of the International Airport of Mexico City detected it when its buyer tried to introduce it to the country.

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