EXCLUSIVE: HOW I GOT THE BENIN BRONZES BACK TO THE OBA OF BENIN (PART 1)
In 2000 I was working in Buckingham Palace when a colleague called Bob Dale told me about Richard Lander -The man who discovered the extension of River Niger to its Delta.
Bob said his wife was a direct descendent of Richard Lander.
" I never heard of Richard Lander and my knowledge of geography in Nigeria was very poor".
Bob gave me a book called 'THE INDOMITABLE SERVANT' by Mercedes Mackay and this is where my Journey started.
There was a page in the book with a picture where the Emir of Borgu wore a ring:
On the ring there was a large circular coin. The ring was given to the Emir's great grand Father by Richard Lander in 1830. That photograph intrigued me,
" here is a large Coin given to a Nigerian back in the 18th century and its only ever worn in a coronation".
Why did Richard Lander give this coin to the emir? When there was a problem in West Africa, the Lander Brothers (Richard and John) came to Old Bussa, they were made to feel welcome-given food, water and shelter. They did a trade for 2 Canoes with the Emir of Borgu, the trade was the ring designed by Timothy Wynn (Who was the engraver of the Bank of England) for the Canoes. It was this Canoes that the Lander brothers used to complete their expedition of River Niger.
As a result of that, each succeeding Emir wore that coin at their coronation. It is a crown Jewel of Borgu. What was more important was there was a family Tree at the back of the book, Richard Lander was born Feb 8th 1804, I was reading the book in 2000, so I had 4 years to put together an expedition and go back to Bussa to celebrate the 200th year of Richard Lander's birth.
This is where my Journey to Nigeria begun...
End of Part 1