Germany Returns 20 Stolen Benin Bronzes to Nigeria

Benin Bronzes
Photo by Jens Schlueter /AFP via Getty Images

Sculptures known as the 'Benin Bronzes' are on display during a press preview of the new exhibition halls ahead of their opening at the new Berlin Palace Humboldt Forum in Berlin on September 15, 2022.

In what is the latest reparative update, the German government has returned Benin bronzes that it looted from Nigeria during colonialism.

Germany returned 20 Benin bronzes that it took from Nigeria at the height of colonization, German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock announced on Tuesday. The European country is the most recent nation to join the drove of Western countries who are returning prized cultural artifacts to African nations.

Today we are taking a step that was long overdue: We are returning 20 Benin bronzes from German museums to where they belong, to their homeland," Baerbock said during the return ceremony in Nigeria.

Nigeria's Foreign Minister Geoffrey Onyeama and Information Minister Lai Mohammed were present at the handover ceremony, along with other notable German officials.

According to Reuters report, Nigerian officials said that several artifacts that Germany returned had been in different parts of Germany for over two centuries.

In 1897, British soldiers raided what was then called the Kingdom of Benin. During that raid, they stole thousands of precious metal castings and sculptures that were transported overseas. The items were later sold to other countries including the United States and New Zealand.

As more people call out on the British Museum in London to release more artifacts, it's more than likely that there will also be more returns. This is primarily because the British Museum holds the largest collection of Benin Bronzes in the world. Before now, other African countries have called on the controversial museum to return its artifacts. In November, a group of renowned Egyptian archaeologists called on the museum to return the Rosetta Stone, a significant Egyptian artifact that featured a written decree issued in 196 B.C. and presented in three forms including: hieroglyphics, Demotic, and ancient Greek.

During the event, Mohammed called on the British Museum to return the rest of the 900 looted bronzes that it took.

"The British Museum and all those holding on to our artifacts must understand that repatriation is a cause which time has come," Mohammed said. "They must also understand that many of these cultural objects are not mere art to us but the true essence of our being. They are not mere decorative works but our culture and heritage. They belong here, not anywhere else.”