Kingdom of Benin artworks to be returned by Stuttgart museum

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Benin bronze return
29 June 2022, Baden-Wuerttemberg, Stuttgart: Abba Tijani (l), director general of the National Museums and Monuments Authority of Nigeria, and Ines de Castro, director of the Linden Museum, look at Benin bronzes in the Linden Museum. The ethnological museum houses 78 objects - including 64 bronzes - from the former royal house of Benin, whose core territory is in what is now southwestern Nigeria. Credit line: Bernd Weißbrod / DPA / Profimedia

Dozens of art pieces from the former Kingdom of Benin – now southern Nigeria – will be officially repatriated to Nigeria by Germany next Wednesday, the Ministry of Science said in Stuttgart on Thursday. 

The reinstatement comprises 70 artefacts which, up until now, have been in the Linden Museum in Stuttgart, but were looted from the Benin palace by the British during colonial times.

There have been efforts in recent years to repatriate the Benin bronzes from Britain and Germany.

The Benin Bronzes are a group of several thousand valuable metal plaques and sculptures which decorated the palace in the Kingdom of Benin, now the Edo State in Nigeria.

Around 1,100 of the Benin collection can be found in around 20 German museums, including 78 in the Linden Museum alone. 

About one third of the objects will remain on loan in the museum, said the ministry.

The museum committed to the restitution last summer.

At the signing of the repatriation agreement, Science Minister Petra Olschowski plans to ceremonially hand over an ivory mask of Queen Mother Idia made in the 16th century. 

The piece is of the highest symbolic value, the minister said. The rare mask was looted by British troops from the bedchamber of King Ovonramwen in 1897, according to the ministry.

The return of the Benin objects is about more than just returning art treasures, Olschowski stressed, continuing: “They are part of the history of Benin and of today’s Nigeria. Their looting in 1897 from the palace of the Benin royal family symbolizes the deep injustice and colonial violence.” ©dpa

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