On Friday, July 1, the Federal government and the German government inked a contract to start returning hundreds of Benin bronzes to Nigeria.
After Germany first declared that it would start returning the bronzes last year, the accord was finalized in Berlin by Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock and Culture Minister Claudia Roth with their Nigerian counterparts.
Speaking at the signing event, Lai Mohammed, the minister of culture, praised “the commencement of a new age of collaboration” and commended Germany for “taking the lead in addressing the wrongs of the past.”
On Friday, July 1, representatives from Nigeria received the first two pieces of art—a plaque with three warriors and the head of a king.
“Today we have reason to celebrate, because we have reached a historic agreement, the Benin bronzes are returning home. These pieces are not only magnificent artifacts, they are some of Africa’s greatest treasures. But they are also telling a story of colonial violence” she said
After being robbed by the British at the end of the 19th century, thousands of Benin bronzes, metal plaques, and sculptures that once adorned the royal palace of the Kingdom of Benin are now dispersed among European museums.
Around 1,100 artifacts from the 16th to 18th centuries are spread across 20 museums in Germany. The Ethnological Museum in Berlin is home to the largest collection, which has 440 items and is regarded as the most significant collection outside of the British Museum in London.