Germany and Nigeria have cleared the way for the repatriation of art objects stolen during the colonial era. With a “joint declaration on the return of the Benin bronzes” on Friday in Berlin, a framework was created for how the property rights to the valuable pieces can be transferred from German museums to Nigeria.
Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock, Minister of State for Culture Claudia Roth (both Green), Nigerian Minister of Culture Lai Mohammed and Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Zubairo Dada signed the four-page and twelve-point agreement, which provides for an “unconditional return”. At the same time, both sides want “that the German public museums and institutions can continue to exhibit the Benin bronzes as loans”.
Two bronzes from Berlin holdings were handed over immediately afterwards. According to the Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation, the two artefacts are a brass memorial head of a king and a brass relief plate depicting a king with four companions. According to the Foreign Office, the bronzes arrived in the luggage of the consul and businessman Eduard Schmidt at the end of the 19th century in Berlin, where they were sold in 1898 to what was then the Royal Museum of Ethnology.Baerbock
Baerbock described the contract as a “historic agreement” with more to come. With the return of the Benin bronzes, Germany is confronting its colonial past, she said. The German colonial history must be worked through together with the African partners and work together on a common future. Minister of State for Culture Roth said that Germany was beginning to shed its blindness to its own colonial past. This could be a path to a future where justice heals the wounds of the past.
The government representatives of Nigeria also appreciated the agreement. The hopes of many years are now bearing fruit, said Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Zubairo Dada. The agreement marks the beginning of a new era of cultural cooperation. The day of the signing is one of the most important days for African culture.