Germany considering return of looted Benin artefacts

Germany is considering returning artefacts known as Benin bronzes to Nigeria, a committee said on Wednesday.

The artefacts were looted from the Kingdom of Benin, in present day southern Nigeria, during the colonial era and are being held at Ethnological Museum in the German capital.

The Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation (SPK), which manages Berlin’s museums, said its members “agree that in the case of the Benin bronzes, a solution will be found that also considers the return of objects as an option”.

In a statement, the foundation said there had been “intensive dialogue with the societies of origin for years with the necessary sensitivity”.

Germany’s Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said on Wednesday that “the question of the return of cultural goods is part of dealing honestly with colonial history. It is a question of justice”.

“In the case of the Benin bronzes, we are working with those involved in Nigeria and Germany to establish a common framework, especially in the museum cooperation with the planned Museum of West African Art in Benin City,” he tweeted.

The Ethnological Museum has 530 historical objects from the kingdom, including 440 bronzes, the AFP news agency reports.

Part of it was due to be exhibited this year in Berlin’s Humboldt Forum, it adds.

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