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Germany Sets Out Plans to Return Benin Bronzes

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tags: colonialism, art history, African history, Benin Bronzes



Germany will begin returning a “substantial” number of the priceless artifacts known as the Benin Bronzes from its museums to Nigeria next year, its culture ministry said on Thursday night.

The artifacts, which the British army looted in an 1897 raid on Benin City in what is now Nigeria, are scattered through museums and private collections around the world. Germany’s announcement, the first by a national government with a timetable attached, comes as momentum is growing on both sides of the Atlantic to return the stolen objects.

An online meeting of government officials, regional legislators and museum administrators reached an agreement that German institutions — which own hundreds of the bronzes — would step up talks with Nigerian partners and strive to make the first returns next year.

“We are facing the historical and moral responsibility to bring Germany’s colonial past to light and to come to terms with it,” Monika Grütters, Germany’s culture minister, said in a news release. “Dealing with the Benin Bronzes is a touchstone,” she added.

The bronzes (which, despite the name, include items made from ivory, brass and wood) will likely be housed in the planned Edo Museum of West African Art in Benin City, which the architect David Adjaye is designing on behalf of the Legacy Restoration Trust — a group that represents Nigeria’s government, regional authorities and the royal court of Benin.

The trust hopes to open the museum in 2025, although the timeline has already been pushed back several times.

Read entire article at New York Times

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