Hundreds of Benin bronze medals will begin to be returned to Nigeria after the Federal government and the German government signed a contract on Friday, July 1.
The agreement was finalized in Berlin by Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock and Culture Minister Claudia Roth with their Nigerian colleagues after Germany originally declared that it would begin returning the bronzes last year.
Speaking at the signing event, Lai Mohammed, the minister of culture, praised “the commencement of a new age of collaboration” and commended Germany for “taking the lead in addressing the wrongs of the past.”
On Friday, July 1, representatives from Nigeria received the first two pieces of art—a plaque with three warriors and the head of a king.
“Today is a special day because we have secured a historic arrangement that will see the Benin bronzes go back to their rightful owners. These objects are among Africa’s greatest treasures in addition to being wonderful artifacts. However, they’re also portraying a tale of colonial aggression, she added.
After being robbed by the British at the end of the 19th century, thousands of Benin bronzes, metal plaques, and sculptures that once adorned the royal palace of the Kingdom of Benin are now dispersed among European museums.
Around 1,100 artifacts from the 16th to 18th centuries are spread across 20 museums in Germany. The Ethnological Museum in Berlin is home to the largest collection, which has 440 items and is regarded as the most significant collection outside of the British Museum in London.