Germany returned to Nigeria on 20 December twenty (20) works of art looted during the colonial period. These include some bronzes from the ancient kingdom of Benin.
The mistakes of colonisation are being corrected in Africa. Indeed, more and more European countries are showing their willingness to return art objects stolen from the continent during this dark period. After the restitution of 26 works of art to Benin by France, Germany is following suit. In Nigeria, for example, Germany returned some twenty works of art looted by British colonial troops in 1897 at a ceremony held on 20 December in Abuja.
“We are here to right a wrong. Officials in my country once bought these works, knowing they had been stolen. After that, we ignored Nigeria’s call to return them for a very long time. It was wrong to take them, but it was also wrong to keep them. This is a story of European colonialism,” said German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock during the ceremony.
In total, the German government has committed to return more than 1. 130 treasures looted during the colonisation. These are cultural objects, sculptures and reliefs artistically made of bronze and brass, as well as works in ivory, coral and wood. These bronzes were looted from the ancient kingdom of Benin in southern Nigeria in 1897. They were stolen during the British expedition that destroyed Benin City, during which the British took away thousands of ivory and metal sculptures, which they later distributed to some twenty museums in Germany. “We are not giving back mere objects to the Nigerian people of today. What we are giving back to you is part of your history, part of who you are,” continued Annalena Baerbock.
It should also be noted that the return of this set of bronzes follows an agreement reached a few months earlier between the two countries to transfer ownership of the 1,130 precious objects. Measures to return objects stolen during the colonial era have gained momentum in recent years. Several European countries have committed themselves to repairing the cultural damage caused, notably through the restitution of looted treasures. In Nigeria, many festive activities are planned to welcome the return of these works. They will probably be exhibited in the first quarter of 2023.