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Benin Bronzes Back Home: Germany Returns Looted Artefacts to Nigeria


Benin Bronzes, treasures of immense cultural and historical value, were returned to Nigeria on December 20, 2022, marking a monumental step by Germany in addressing its colonial past. This significant event, held in Abuja, was attended by Germany’s Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock, who acknowledged the wrongs of the past and emphasized the importance of this restitution.

Baerbock’s candid remarks underscored the moral imperative behind the return: “Officials from my country once bought the bronzes, knowing they had been robbed and stolen. After that, we ignored Nigeria’s plea to return them for a very long time. It was wrong to take them and it was wrong to keep them” (DW) .

The return of these artefacts is part of a broader agreement to transfer over 1,000 Benin Bronzes back to Nigeria. This marks the first time a European nation has entered into such a comprehensive agreement, reflecting a significant shift in attitudes towards colonial-era artefacts and their rightful ownership. As Nigeria’s Information Minister Lai Mohammed noted, “Twenty years ago, even 10 years ago, nobody could have anticipated these bronzes returning to Nigeria, because the obstacles to achieving repatriation were seemingly insurmountable” (DW) .

The Benin Bronzes, consisting of metal sculptures, plaques, and carvings, were looted by British troops in 1897 from the Kingdom of Benin, located in modern-day Edo State, Nigeria. These artefacts are not only celebrated for their artistic beauty but also hold deep spiritual and historical significance for the people of Nigeria. Their theft remains a poignant reminder of the injustices of colonialism.

Germany’s initiative follows a growing trend among European countries and museums to address the provenance of artefacts acquired during the colonial period. Last month, London’s Horniman Museum returned dozens of items, including some Benin Bronzes, to Nigerian ownership, becoming the first UK museum to do so on this scale.

This restitution is not just about returning stolen artefacts but also about acknowledging and rectifying historical wrongs. Germany has previously taken steps in this direction, such as officially recognizing the genocide committed in Namibia during its colonial rule and returning human remains used in pseudoscientific racial research.

Looking ahead, Nigeria plans to open the Edo Museum of West African Art in 2026, designed by British-Ghanaian architect Sir David Adjaye. This museum will house the largest collection of Benin Bronzes ever assembled, offering a space for Nigerians and the world to appreciate and understand these artefacts in their rightful context.

The return of the Benin Bronzes is a powerful testament to the ongoing journey towards historical justice and cultural restitution. It symbolizes a collective effort to confront the past, heal historical wounds, and pave the way for a future grounded in respect and mutual understanding. This event aligns with

The Oba of Benin dances with joy as looted artifacts taken from Benin during the invasion is returned by Germany

For more insights into the implications of this historic restitution, visit BlaccTheddi Post. Let’s continue to explore, understand, and act to change Africa’s future for the better.


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