Abuja (AFP) – Germany returned more than 20 looted artifacts to Nigeria on Tuesday, saying they were “righting a wrong” more than 100 years after they were stolen by British colonial forces.
Thousands of paintings, sculptures, and metal objects from the 16th to 18th centuries, considered among the finest of African art, were looted by British soldiers from the former Kingdom of Benin, and ended up in museums and art collections across the United States and Europe.
Germany’s return of some of the hundreds of bronzes it still holds comes as international momentum is building to recover African artifacts from other former colonial powers such as Britain, France and Belgium.
German Foreign Minister Annalina Baerbock traveled to the Nigerian capital, Abuja, to personally deliver it, which included small drawings and other artifacts.
“What we will return to is part of your history, and what we will return to is part of your identity,” Burbak said at a ceremony with Nigerian officials.
“We are here to right the wrong.”
Many of the Nigerian artifacts were originally taken in 1897, when a British military expedition attacked and destroyed Benin City, stealing thousands of metal and ivory carvings.
A new online archive, Digital Benin (https://digitalbenin.org/), has begun providing a central hub for images and descriptions of more than 5,000 artifacts held at 131 institutions around the world.
The project, which began planning and research two years ago, was launched last month in Benin City, Edo State, southern Nigeria, in the heart of the ancient kingdom of Benin.
Benin, which borders Nigeria, opened at the beginning of the year an exhibition of works of art and treasures that France returned after two years of negotiations.
French colonial forces stole 26 plots of land in 1892 from the capital of the former Kingdom of Dahomey.
The roots of the Kingdom of Benin go back to the first century BC, despite its name, which was located in the southwest of present-day Nigeria.
It developed through military conquest and trade, which developed with the arrival of Europeans in the 16th century in the trade in slaves, ivory and spices.
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