Berlin foundation transfers ownership of its Benin Bronzes to Nigeria

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benin bronzes
Credit line: Adam BERRY / AFP / Profimedia

The Berlin-based foundation holding a large collection of Benin Bronzes announced on Thursday that it would transfer ownership to Nigeria.

Hermann Parzinger, president of the Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation, and Abba Isa Tijani, general director of Nigeria’s National Commission for Museums and Monuments, would sign the relevant agreement on Thursday, the foundation said.

The agreement provides for the return of the bronzes, looted during a British military expedition in 1897, and also for future loans to German institutions.

The foundation, a German government body, wishes to exhibit some of the bronzes in Berlin’s new Humboldt Forum, the last part of which is to be opened next month. The original aim had been to display around 220 of the bronzes.

Berlin’s state museums, which fall under the foundation, are in possession of 514 artefacts, one of the largest collections of artefacts from the Kingdom of Benin, which was located in modern Nigeria.

Germany and Nigeria agreed a joint declaration on returning the bronzes in July. The details and possible loans are to be agreed between the various museums and their funders.

The largest collections of bronzes in Germany are held by Berlin’s Ethnological Museum, the Linden Museum in Stuttgart, Hamburg’s Museum am Rothenbaum, Cologne’s Rautenstrauch Joest Museum and the Dresden Museum of Ethnology.

The largest collection overall is held by the British Museum in London with 700 artefacts. The Pitt Rivers Museum in Oxford holds more than 300, and there are smaller collections in the United States. © dpa

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