BERLIN (Reuters) – Germany plans to start returning artifacts from Benin to Nigeria next year. This is part of the growing trend of returning cultural artifacts looted during the colonial era to their original sites, according to German foreign ministers.
Thousands of metal molds and carvings were confiscated from British soldiers during an operation in the Kingdom of Benin in 1897 and then separated from Nigeria under British control.
“Bronzes” – carved sculptures made of copper alloy, many of which depict court figures – were sold at auction and ubiquitous among institutions from New Zealand to Germany and the United States. The largest group is in London.
“In addition to maximum transparency, we want in the first place a big money back,” Federal Culture Minister Monica Grutters said in a joint statement with the Federal Chancellery and Museums Thursday evening.
“We want to contribute to a common understanding and reconciliation with the descendants of people who were deprived of their cultural treasures during the colonial era,” added Gruaters.
The Ethnological Museum in Berlin includes more than 500 historical artifacts from the Kingdom of Benin in its collections, most of them in bronze.
The University of Aberdeen, Scotland, announced last month that it will return a bronze medal to Nigeria from Benin in a few weeks, and this is one of the first public institutions to do so.
(Written by Maria Sheehan)
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