German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock on Tuesday gave back to Nigeria twenty of the so-called “Benin bronzes”, that is a small part of the statues and artifacts stolen by the British troops in the colonial period as war booty and then resold, even in Germany. A few months ago the German government announced that it would return more than 1,000 artifacts previously exhibited in various German museums to Nigeria. During a ceremony in the Nigerian capital Abuja on Tuesday, Baerbock called the return of the bronzes an opportunity to correct some past mistakes.
The term “Benin Bronzes” refers to thousands of sculptures, plaques and artefacts in various metals that were made between the 15th and 19th centuries in the West African kingdom of Benin and in 1897 it was made a protectorate of the British Empire . Today it roughly corresponds to the territory of the present Nigerian state of Edo, and Nigeria, which has been independent since 1960, has long been demanding that Western institutions that owned most of the bronzes return them.
In November, the Smithsonian museum in Washington DC had returned 29 bronzes to Nigeria, as had also been done in the previous months by the Horniman museum in London and the Scottish University of Aberdeen. Last week it announced that it would also return several Benin bronzes to the University of Cambridge, one of the most prestigious university institutions in the United Kingdom and the world.