Germany has returned 22 Benin bronzes to Nigeria as part of a larger effort by Western nations to seek redress for artifacts stolen from Africa.
The Benin Bronzes are sculptures and plaques looted of the former Kingdom of Benin, now southern Nigeria, not the modern nation of Benin, by British soldiers in 1897. Nigerians have demanded the return of the bronzes. for more than a decadebut Western nations and museums have only begun to answer its call in recent years.
German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock acknowledged that while the return of the artifacts will not heal all wounds from the past, she said it is a crucial step in addressing Germany’s “dark colonial history”.
“For you here in Nigeria, this loss has been your reality for your entire life,” Baerbock said at the official award ceremony on Tuesday. “Today we are here to return the Benin Bronzes to where they belong: to the people of Nigeria. We are here to right a wrong.”
He added that Germany and other European countries must listen to those who were victims of colonial cruelty and work for reparations.
“Twenty years ago, even 10 years ago, no one could have anticipated that these bronzes would return to Nigeria, because the obstacles to achieving repatriation seemed insurmountable,” Nigerian Information and Culture Minister Alhaji Lai Mohammed said. said at the ceremony “But today, with the pioneering gesture of a friendly nation, Germany, history has changed.”
During the last decade, the Benin Dialogue Group has been working to repatriate these artifacts. Germany’s negotiations with Nigeria have prompted faster dialog with other nations, institutions and museums, according to the Ministry of Information and Culture. the metropolitan museum, the smithsonianand the Horniman Museums and Gardens in London are among those who have agreed to return artifacts in recent years.
“Forever, Nigeria, Africa and indeed all of humanity will always remember and cherish this period of human history when Germany stood by our side,” Mohammed. said in the ceremony