BERLIN (Reuters) – Germany plans to start returning artifacts from Benin to Nigeria next year, as part of a growing trend to return cultural artifacts captured during the colonial era to their original sites, German foreign ministers said.
Thousands of metal molds and carvings were confiscated by UK soldiers in 1897 during an operation in the Kingdom of Benin, then separated from Nigeria under British control.
“Bronzes” – in fact, engraved copper alloy sculptures, many of which depict court figures – were auctioned off and then ubiquitous among institutions ranging from New Zealand to Germany and the United States. The largest group is in London.
“In addition to maximum transparency, we mainly aim to recover significant funds,” said German Culture Minister Monica Grüters in a joint statement issued with the German 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,” Grutters added.
The Museum of Ethnologisches in Berlin houses more than 500 historical artifacts from the Kingdom of Benin in its collections, most of them in bronze.
The University of Aberdeen, Scotland, said last month that it would return a bronze medal from Benin to Nigeria within weeks, and it is one of the first public institutions to do so.
(Written by Maria Sheehan)
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