The artefacts, mostly in Europe, were stolen by explorers and colonisers from the once mighty Benin Kingdom, now southwestern Nigeria, and are among Africa's most significant heritage objects.

The artefacts were created as early as the 16th century onwards, according to the British Museum.
The artefacts were created as early as the 16th century onwards, according to the British Museum. (Reuters)

Two Benin bronzes have been returned to a traditional palace in Nigeria, more than a century after they were pillaged by British troops.

The move raised hopes that thousands more artefacts could finally be returned to their ancestral home.

At a colourful ceremony to mark the return of a cockerel sculpture and head of an Oba or king, spokesperson Charles Edosonmwan for the Oba palace in Benin City noted on Saturday that some of the bronzes were kept as far away as New Zealand, the United States and Japan.

"They are not just art but they are things that underline the significance of our spirituality," Edosonmwan said in an interview on the sidelines of a ceremony attended by traditional leaders.

The artefacts were created as early as the 16th century onwards, according to the British Museum.

The two artefacts were handed over to the Nigerian High Commission in October by the University of Aberdeen and Cambridge University's Jesus College but have yet to return to their ancestral home.

READ MORE: Benin Bronzes: The UK’s first institutional return of looted artifacts

Africa's struggle to recover looted artefacts

The artefacts, mostly in Europe, were stolen by explorers and colonisers from the once mighty Benin Kingdom, now southwestern Nigeria, and are among Africa's most significant heritage objects. 

The return is another milestone in the years-long fight by African countries to recover looted works, as numerous European institutions are grappling with the cultural legacies of colonialism.

Some 90 percent of Africa's cultural heritage is believed to be in Europe, French art historians estimate. 

Musee du quai Branly–Jacques Chirac in Paris alone holds around 70,000 African objects and London's British Museum tens of thousands more.

READ MORE: France to return art looted from Benin after colonisation

Source: Reuters