Germany Museum Plans Repatriation of 92 Benin Bronzes

Rautenstrauch-Joest, an ethnography museum in Cologne, Germany, says it will return 92 Benin bronzes to Nigeria starting from December 2022.

A German platform, dpa reports that the City’s Council would vote on the proposal by December 8, where it will be suggested that three artworks be returned before the end of the month as requested by Nigeria, while 52 other would be from 2023 onwards.

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However, 37 of the works were planned to remain on loan to the Cologne Museum for an initial period of ten years.

The draft resolution on the return was the result of negotiations with representatives of Nigeria that had been conducted since 2021 under the auspices of the German Foreign Office and the Minister of State for Culture, according to Cologne city.

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The municipal Rautenstrauch-Joest Museum has the fourth-largest collection of Benin court artworks in Germany, dpa notes. They were looted from the royal palace of the Kingdom of Benin by the British Army in 1897 and subsequently auctioned off in Europe.

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There had been several reports of 96 Benin bronzes in the Cologne museum recently, but the city explained that an examination of the works of art in recent months had revealed new information about their attribution to the 1897 theft.

Cologne noted that some artworks were not made until the 20th century and thus did not originate from the theft. Other works are no longer in the museum due to war losses and barter transactions. 


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