Germany plans to hand back Benin bronzes to Nigeria by fall

2021-03-24 18:00:11
Germany plans to hand back Benin bronzes to Nigeria by fall

The German government s planning to hand back its Benin Bronzes to Nigeria, piling pressure on British museums to also return artefacts looted from Britain’s former west African colony in 1897.

Berlin is moving towards full restitution of Nigeria’s looted treasures, a German foreign ministry official said Tuesday.

Hundreds of bronzes from the ancient Kingdom of Benin, located in modern-day Nigeria - a former British colony - are held at the Ethnological Museum in the German capital.

They were due to be unveiled at the Humboldt Forum, a new museum of non-European art in the city centre. But Hartmut Dorgerloh, the Humboldt’s director, confirmed that they could instead be returned to Nigeria by the autumn.

Andreas Görgen, the head of the Foreign Ministry’s culture department, visited Benin City last week for discussions with Edo State Governor Godwin Obaseki and other Nigerian officials.

The Benin Bronzes were looted in 1897.

The bronzes were looted by British soldiers and sailors on a punitive expedition to Benin City in 1897 and subsequently scattered across museums in Europe and North America. The single largest collection of Benin bronzes is held by the British Museum, and a further 300 objects are held at the Pitt Rivers Museum in Oxford.

Barnaby Phillips, author of a forthcoming book, “Loot: Britain and the Benin Bronzes”, said that this will put pressure on Britain and that the British Museum - which boasts the world’s biggest collection of Benin Bronzes.

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