Benin Bronzes

Germany to Return Stolen Benin Bronzes to Nigeria


The German government announced precious artifacts looted during the colonial era would be returned to Nigeria beginning 2022.

In a joint statement, Germany’s Ministry of Culture, state ministers and museum directors committed to “substantive returns” of Benin bronzes.

“We are facing the historical and moral responsibility to bring Germany’s colonial past to light and to come to terms with it. Dealing with the Benin bronzes is a touchstone for this,” Monika Grütters, Germany’s Minister of State for Culture, said in a statement.

The British army stole artworks made of bronze, brass and ivory in a raid on the Kingdom of Benin, now known as Nigeria, in 1897. After the looting, the bronzes were sold to exhibitions around the world.

“The declaration passed yesterday is a historic milestone in dealing with the colonial past. I am happy and grateful that we were able to agree on the common goal of developing a coordinated position in Germany and reaching a common understanding with the Nigerian side. In addition to the greatest possible transparency, substantial returns are sought in particular. In this way we would like to contribute to understanding and reconciliation with the descendants of the people who were robbed of their cultural treasures during the colonial era,” Grütters added.

Berlin’s Ethnological Museum in Berlin has one of the world’s largest collections of historical objects from the Kingdom of Benin, holding an estimated 530 items, including 440 bronzes.

According to CNN, Edo State Governor Godwin Obaseki, who hosted the delegation, then announced the launch of a “legacy restoration trust.”

“We believe that our collaboration should transcend to not only returning the works but also understanding the significant and meaning of those works from our history,” said Obaseki in a statement.

Germany is not the only European country to begin the process of atoning for its colonial past.

Last month, the University of Aberdeen became the first UK institution in decades to agree to the return of looted bronzes. The National Museum of Ireland has also started the process of returning its stolen artifacts.

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