Benin Bronzes: Discussions with the Nigerian Delegation in Berlin

Museum Europäischer Kulturen

During a visit organised by the German Foreign Office, the Nigerian partners and Sir David Adjaye, architect of the Edo State Museum of West African Art (EMOWAA) being built in Benin City, Nigeria, toured the Humboldt Forum and also viewed objects from Benin at the Ethnologisches Museum (Ethnological Museum) storage facility in Dahlem on 7 and 8 July 2021.

Nigerian Delegation Visits the Ethnologisches Museum Storage Facility

The guests took a closer look at some of the original objects in Dahlem. The Ethnologisches Museum holds some 500 objects from the historical Kingdom of Benin, including 400 that are part of what is known collectively as the Benin Bronzes. Although most of the bronzes were acquired by the Berlin museum from the art market, the majority of them were originally looted by the British during their conquest of Benin in 1897.

Participating in the visit to Berlin were H.E. Lai Mohammed, Minister of Information and Culture; H.E. Godwin Nogheghase Obaseki, Governor of Edo State; HRH Crown Prince Ezelekhae Ewuare; Prof. Abba Isa Tijani, Director General, National Commission for Museums and Monuments; and Mr. Phillip Ihenacho, Director of the Board, Legacy Restoration Trust.

Lars-Christian Koch, director of the Ethnologisches Museum and the Museum für Asiatische Kunst (Asian Museum of Art), emphasised, “I am pleased we were able to deepen our knowledge about the bronzes in the course of the visit. We also attach great importance in the coming years to a cooperative working relationship and the expertise of our partners in Nigeria.”

Work on the Roadmap for Planned Returns in 2022

Hermann Parzinger, President of the Stiftung Preußischer Kulturbesitz (SPK, Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation), expressed his pleasure about the visit of the Nigerian partners and confidently looked ahead to the coming months:

Our declared goal is substantial returns of objects from the historical Kingdom of Benin. We are coming closer to achieving this objective with every conversation, which is why this visit by the Nigerian partners to Berlin was so important. We now need to keep up the current pace of the talks so that objects still held in Berlin can be viewed next year in the then completed first component of the EMOWAA, the pavilion, which will include storage facilities specially designed as an educational display, exhibition areas, study rooms and spaces for meetings and interchange. The roadmap leading to the returns planned for 2022 is gradually taking tangible form.