High March School


School News

Exploring the ancient kingdom of Benin


On Thursday 6 June, Year 5 enjoyed an interesting visit to the Horniman Museum in Forest Hill, South London. Upon arrival, it was quickly determined that the long journey had been worth it to enjoy a snack in the beautiful museum gardens, with spectacular views over the centre of London. Several key land marks were visible on a fine day, including the Shard and St Paul’s Cathedral.

Whilst at the museum, the girls took part in a workshop all about the artefacts of the Ancient Kingdom of Benin, some of which are held in the Horniman’s collection. They found out about the method for making the characteristic Benin bronzes by watching a video of an artist who still practises using traditional methods. As part of the workshop, the girls engaged in the highly topical debate around ownership of the artefacts. They were interested to learn the history behind the museum’s collection and were in resounding agreement with the Horniman’s own curators, that returning ownership to Nigeria in 2022 was the correct decision. However, intelligent points were raised about making the culture of Benin accessibly beyond the modern-day country borders, as well as questions about what would be placed in the display instead of the current artefacts.

For the remainder of their visit, girls spent time exploring the Horniman’s wide-ranging collection. The ‘World Artefacts’ gallery was a particular favourite, with girls searching high and low for objects of interest and learning about their cultural significance. The girls were also interested to learn about the tea trade, especially about the hard work of the tea-pickers in India. They learned about the connection between the Horniman Museum and the tea trade when they discovered that Frederick Horniman had made his fortune as a tea merchant in the 19th century, and used the money to purchase many of the artefacts which make up the museum’s collection today.

The girls had a fantastic day and were reluctant to depart as they were keen to see more. The things they learnt and the reflections they made will greatly enrich their work on the Kingdom of Benin for the remainder of this term’s History.

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