Germany’s Ministry of Culture and Foreign Affairs has dosclosed it will start returning Benin bronzes to Nigeria by the year 2022, in a move aimed at returning colonial artefacts wrongfully taken during the colonial era, to their rightful owners.
In 1897, British soldiers forcefully took bronzes from the Kingdom of Benin after a raid which has been documented across various generations.
The British government since auctioned the copper-made sculptures to different countries of the world including the United States, Germany, New Zealand and France. To date, the biggest collection of stolen bronzes remain in London.
A joint statement issued by the German Ministries on Thursday also said they aim for a substantial retribution. Monika Gruetters, German Minister of Culture said they want to play a major role in reconciliation with the people whose forefathers were robbed of their major works, treasure and history during colonialism.
Located in Berlin, one of Germany’s biggest museums, the Ethnoglishchen has at least 500 Benin artefacts with the majority of them believed to be sculpted of bronzes.
Conversations have surrounded the return of cultural artefacts to their places of origin with the British government which has many of these artefacts forming a Benin Dialogue Group with the hope of giving them back to the original owners permanently or on loan for display.
The Edo State government, home to Benin, an ancient Nigerian city of great historic significance, is planning to build a centre where artifacts can be stored and studied, and also has plans in the pipelines to build a museum by 2025.