Germany and Nigeria sign an agreement for the restitution of Beninese bronzes | Entertainment News

By GEIR MOULSON, Associated Press

BERLIN (AP) — Germany and Nigeria on Friday signed an agreement paving the way for the return of hundreds of artifacts known as the Benin Bronzes that were taken from Africa more than 120 years ago — a agreement which the Nigerian authorities hope will encourage other countries to follow suit.

Governments and museums in Europe and North America have increasingly sought to resolve ownership disputes over objects looted during colonial times.

A British colonial expedition looted vast amounts of treasures in 1897 from the royal palace of the Kingdom of Benin in what is now southwestern Nigeria, including many bas-reliefs and sculptures.

The artifacts eventually spread far and wide. Hundreds have been sold to collections such as the Ethnological Museum in Berlin, which has one of the world’s largest collections of historical objects from the Kingdom of Benin, estimated at around 530 pieces, including 440 bronzes. Many of them date from the 16th to 18th centuries.

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Two pieces held by the Berlin museum – a commemorative head of a king and a relief slab depicting a king with four servants – were handed over as German and Nigerian officials signed their ‘joint political declaration’ at the German Foreign Ministry foreigners in Berlin.

“This is just the beginning of more than 1,000 pieces from the Kingdom of Benin that are still in German museums, and they all belong to the Nigerian people,” German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said. “We were wrong to take the bronzes; we were wrong to keep them for 120 years.

The bronzes “are among Africa’s greatest treasures, but they also tell the story of colonial violence,” Baerbock said.

The Nigerian government, which in recent years has intensified its demands for the return of the bronzes from Benin, said the deal would pave the way for the return of 1,130 pieces. He described it as “the largest repatriation of artifacts in the world”.

“Germany has taken the initiative to right the wrongs of the past,” said Nigerian Culture Minister Lai Mohammed. He added that he expects the decision to “become a harbinger of more repatriations of cultural property”.

Germany announced last year its intention to return the Benin Bronzes that ended up there.

Officials did not give a timetable for the return of the remaining artifacts on Friday, but Berlin’s Ethnological Museum said a deal on the rest of the bronzes it holds will follow later this year. The authority overseeing the museum says it expects to keep some of it on long-term loan. Baerbock said she looked forward to seeing bronzes “while on vacation in Germany.”

Friday’s agreement provides for museum cooperation between Germany and Nigeria. Germany is helping Nigeria set up a new museum in Benin City where the bronzes will be displayed in the future, Baerbock said.

“I sincerely hope that other European countries… will follow in your footsteps,” Nigerian Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Zubairu Dada said of Friday’s deal.

The Smithsonian has removed 10 Benin bronze pieces from display at its National Museum of African Art in Washington, DC, and announced a new ethical return policy this year. Other US museums have also begun discussions about returning the items, while France said last year it would return the so-called Abomey treasures to Benin as part of a larger effort. aimed at redressing colonial wrongs.

Hundreds of artefacts from the Kingdom of Benin are housed in the British Museum in London, which has resisted calls to return them.

“The British Museum remains committed to a thorough and open investigation into the history of Benin’s collections,” the museum said in an emailed statement on Friday. “This includes the full recognition and understanding of the colonial history which forms the key context for the development of the Museum’s Beninese collections.”

Frank Jordans in Berlin and Chinedu Asadu in Lagos, Nigeria contributed to this report.

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