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Germany and Nigeria to sign accord on returning Benin Bronzes

A British colonial expedition stole the bas-relief Bronzes from the royal palace of the kingdom of Benin in 1897.

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Abba Tijani, director general of the National Museums and Monuments Authority of Nigeria, with Benin Bronzes at the Linden Museum in Stuttgart, Germany (Bernd Weissbrod/dpa/AP)

Abba Tijani, director general of the National Museums and Monuments Authority of Nigeria, with Benin Bronzes at the Linden Museum in Stuttgart, Germany (Bernd Weissbrod/dpa/AP)

Abba Tijani, director general of the National Museums and Monuments Authority of Nigeria, with Benin Bronzes at the Linden Museum in Stuttgart, Germany (Bernd Weissbrod/dpa/AP)

Germany and Nigeria are set to sign an agreement in Berlin on Friday paving the way for the return of important sculptures known as the Benin Bronzes that were taken from Africa in the late 19th century.

Governments and museums in Europe and North America have increasingly sought to resolve ownership disputes over objects that were looted during colonial times.

A British colonial expedition stole the bas-relief Bronzes along with a vast number of other treasures from the royal palace of the kingdom of Benin in 1897.

The Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation, an authority that oversees many of Berlin’s museums, announced last year that it was beginning formal negotiations on returning pieces that are in its collection.

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Benin Bronzes at the Linden Museum in Stuttgart (Bernd Weissbrod/dpa/AP)

Benin Bronzes at the Linden Museum in Stuttgart (Bernd Weissbrod/dpa/AP)

AP/PA Images

Benin Bronzes at the Linden Museum in Stuttgart (Bernd Weissbrod/dpa/AP)

The memorandum of understanding will be signed in Berlin by German foreign minister Annalena Baerbock and culture minister Claudia Roth, and Nigeria’s culture minister Lai Mohammed and minister of state for foreign affairs Zubairo Dada.

Final details of the restitution have yet to be announced, but the Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation says it expects to keep some of the Bronzes on loan from Nigeria.

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Last year, the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African Art in Washington DC removed 10 Benin Bronze pieces from display and committed to repatriating them to Nigeria. Other museums have also begun discussions about returning the objects.

Many of the objects remain in the British Museum, which has resisted calls to return them.


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