Germany Signs Deal to Return Nigeria’s Benin Bronzes

Germany Signs Deal to Return Nigeria’s Benin Bronzes (News Central TV)

The Benin Bronzes, which rank among the most important cultural artifacts in Africa and were stolen during the 19th century, will now belong to Nigeria after Germany signed a contract transferring ownership.

The Foundation for Prussian Cultural Heritage (SPK) and the National Commission for Museums and Monuments (NCMM) of Nigeria signed on Thursday to transfer ownership of the Berlin Ethnological Museum collection to Nigeria.

When British troops invaded the Kingdom of Benin, which was located in what is now southwestern Nigeria, in 1897, they confiscated hundreds of bronzes, which are elaborate sculptures and plaques dating back to the 13th century and earlier.

African nations campaigned for years to get their hands on the artifacts after they were stolen and placed in museums across Europe and the United States. In July, Germany gave the first sculpture to Nigeria.

The arrangement reached on Thursday comprises 512 items that were looted in Berlin in 1897 and was described by the SPK as the largest transfer of museum artifacts from a colonial context to date.

This year, the first items will be physically delivered back to Nigeria. A third of the treasures will be on display at the Humboldt Forum in Berlin for at least 10 years while they are still on loan. The loan could be continued.

“This represents the future concerning the artefacts issue; a future of collaboration among museums, a future of according respect and dignity to the legitimate requests of other nations and traditional institutions,” said NCMM’s Abba Isa Tijani.

Abba Tijani

According to French art historians, 90% of Africa’s cultural heritage is thought to be in Europe. As Western institutions struggle to deal with the cultural legacy of colonialism, African nations have long attempted to recover works looted by explorers and colonizers.

The Horniman Museum in London said earlier this month that it would return 72 artifacts, including 12 brass plaques, to the Nigerian government. This follows similar announcements made by a Paris museum and a Cambridge University college last year.

Further agreements will come in the coming months, according to Claudia Roth, the German Commissioner for Culture and the Media, who noted that it set an example for German institutions with colonial-era collections.

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