September 18, 2022

Benin bronzes go on last exhibition in Berlin before repatriation

Benin bronzes


Thousands of Benin bronzes are scattered around European museums after being looted by the British in the 19th century, according to Aljazeera  News Network.

Stolen during the colonial era, dozens of bronzes that once decorated the royal palace of the Kingdom of Benin in southern Nigeria will go on show for one last time in Berlin from Saturday before repatriation to their original home.

Thousands of Benin bronzes, as they are known, are scattered around European museums alongside metal plaques and sculptures from the area after being looted by the British at the end of the 19th century.

The move to return some of the renowned pieces of African art is the latest in a series of attempts by Germany to try to take responsibility for its crimes in the colonial era.

In May 2021, it officially recognised the genocide it perpetrated in Namibia between 1904-1908, promising more than one billion euros ($1.2bn) in financial support for infrastructure projects there.

Among the items being exhibited at the Humboldt Museum in Berlin, beginning this weekend are a pair of thrones and a commemorative bust of the monarch. They used to decorate the walls of the royal palace in Benin City, in southern Nigeria.

Two rooms in the sprawling museum are being dedicated to the art and the history of the Kingdom of Benin, an exhibition realised “in close cooperation with partners in Nigeria”, according to the German side.

The removal of precious objects is explained in the gallery, while educational workshops are also planned around the display.

The recognition of the colonial injustices and the subsequent return of the items “will continue to define our work in the future,” Hermann Parzinger, the president of the Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation, which oversees the national museums in the German capital, said in a statement.

“Just like the Netherlands and Belgium, Germany has established a museums policy that has a lucid view of the colonial past,” French historian Pascal Blanchard, a specialist on the era, told the AFP news agency.

Nigeria is planning to build a museum in Benin City, to bring together the works on their return.