Germany is making good on a promise from 2019. German officials have agreed to finally give Nigeria back its stolen bronze artifacts that originated in early Benin— and it’s long overdue.
It’s been an ongoing dispute as West African leaders have asked for Western countries to return stolen artifacts during colonial rule. Many of their requests were denied— except for human remains— as Travel Noire previously reported.
In Nigeria’s case, the artifacts were looted from the ancient Kingdom of Benin, which is known today as southern Nigeria, by British soldiers during an 1897 raid.
These beautiful artworks were ultimately acquired by museums and private collections in Europe and United States.
In fact, an estimated 90 to 95% of sub-Saharan cultural artifacts are housed outside Africa across Europe and in North America, according to a report and analysis from NPR.
And now, Germany is trying to right a wrong by returning some of its Benin bronzes. It’s not perfect, but it’s a start as the previous agreement was to “lend” these countries their pieces back.
“The participants [agree] that addressing Germany’s colonial past is an important issue for the whole of society and a core task for cultural policy,” officials wrote in a joint release.
None of this would be possible without the consortium known as the Benin Dialogue Group, which has been working on tangible solutions of reparating stolen goods as they hold deep cultural significance. The art and statues also serve as a pain point as they are a reminder of the impacts of colonialism. That’s why there has been growing international pressure to give African countries back what doesn’t belong to the Western world in the first place.
“We want to contribute to understanding and reconciliation with the descendants of those whose cultural treasures were stolen during colonization,” German Culture Minister Monika Gruetters said on Thursday, adding that the first returns were expected to take place in 2022.
Officials from the Scotland University of Aberdeen said they would also repatriate a Benin bronze that was acquired in 1957 at an auction. School leaders called it “extremely immoral.”