Germany has returned 21 priceless artefacts looted by British troops from the former West African kingdom of Benin 125 years ago following a repatriation deal signed earlier this year. German Foreign Minister Annalena Bierbock handed them over to Nigerian Culture Minister Lai Mohammed. Handed over Handing over a small mask of Ayoba (the Queen Mother), Barbrook said, “She’s going back to where she belongs.” This ayoba is made of ivory and decorated with yellow glass beads.
Barebock said, “It was wrong to take them and keep them for 12 years. There will be more such agreements in future and this moment is historic for us. We are confronting our own history of colonialism.” Meanwhile, the British remain silent, despite mounting pressure and international scrutiny, not returning stolen goods from their colonial past.
what is benin
The ‘Benin Bronzes’ are a group of sculptures made of brass and bronze that include elaborately decorated cast plaques, monumental heads, animals and humans, royal regalia and ornaments. They were made during at least the 16th century in the West African kingdom of Benin by specialists working for the royal court of the Oba (king) in Benin City. These include a bronze head of a Benin king or Oba and a sword called an ada.
More than 1,000 of these objects were in German museums after purchase from British colonists. In fact, the British colonialists had stolen these precious artifacts in 1897 during their attack on the former Kingdom of Benin.
There are two “golden ages” in Benin metalworking. Many of these sculptures date back to the thirteenth century, and some to the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. After more than a century, they are now returning to Africa.
The Benin bronzes returned to Nigeria are to be displayed in a new pavilion in Benin City. Germany has given €4 million for this pavilion.
French President Emmanuel Macron first started the debate about returning colonial goods to Africa five years ago. France returned 26 items to the neighboring Republic of Benin in November 2021. These objects were kept in the Musée du Quai Branly, France.
As the African nation celebrated the return of its long-lost cultural heritage, there was dismay over Britain, which has refused to return the largest collection of Benin bronzes to the British Museum. Have done.
Godwin Obaseki, the governor of Edo state, said, “Britain has most of our historical heritage, and we thought they would show a big heart. Edo State has been part of the Benin Kingdom. He further said, “They (British) were the ones who came here and destroyed the empire, they were the ones who looted a lot of idols from here and now they should come forward to return them.”
At the handover ceremony, Mohammed said he hoped Germany’s move would inspire Britain to open a conversation about the bronze sculptures housed in the British Museum. He said, “But this did not happen. The British Museum must understand that the time has come to return our belongings.” Germany’s Commissioner for Culture, Claudia Roth, said: “This is not the end of the process, but the beginning. This is a turning point in international cultural policy.”
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