Germany is the first country to return a large amount of robbery to Nigeria. They are hundreds of images that were robbed from Africa at the end of the nineteenth century by British soldiers.
According to the German Minister Grütters of Culture, Germany takes responsibility and faces its colonial past by returning a “substantial part” of the works of art. The objects are located in museums in Berlin, Hamburg and Stuttgart and will return to Nigeria next year.
The works were taken in 1897 and are part of the Benin Bronzes. These metal statues and plaquettes originate from the former kingdom of Benin, in present-day Nigeria. They‘re not just in Germany. They can also be found in museums in Great Britain, the USA and the Netherlands.
The organisation that is likely to receive the works of art responds positively to the German announcement. “It’s going in the right direction,” says the Nigerian artist Victor Ehikhamenor. “This is a big step in correcting injustice,” he says. “Germany paves the way for other Western countries that are still struggling with this.”
The German historian Jürgen Zimmerer is critical. He works at the University of Hamburg and specializes in colonialism. Zimmerer says that the return seems to be mainly intended to polish the image of Germany.
According to him, this can be seen from the fact that not all predators return. “There is only a vague communication about a ‘substantial part’, he says. “It is also not known who will pick out the works.” Zimmerer expects that pressure on other countries to return predatory will increase.
In the Netherlands
Last month, the University of Aberdeen announced to return a precious bronze statue to Nigeria. That statue, too, belongs to the Benin Bronzes.
In the Netherlands there are 114 objects that were taken from Nigeria at the time. In January, Minister Van Engelshoven sent a plan to the House of Representatives about giving it back. The next cabinet should decide on that.