Twenty historic bronze sculptures have been returned to Nigeria by Germany as part of efforts to address its dark colonial past.
Annalena Baerbock Germany’s foreign minister returned the prized cultural artefacts to Nigerian officials in a ceremony in the capital, Abuja. The sculptures, known as Benin bronzes were looted from the West African country by British troops when it was under colonial rule.
Cast in brass and bronze with ancient designs, the sculptures were used in rituals to honour the Benin people’s ancestors and rulers.
More than 5,000 ancient artefacts are estimated to have been stolen from Nigeria by England when it was the country’s coloniser.
Most of the treasures were stolen from the royal palace of the Kingdom of Benin and some ended up in the custody of other foreign governments including Germany.
In recent years, Nigerian authorities have intensified efforts to have the looted artefacts returned. Earlier this year, Germany pledged to repatriate more than 1,000 of them in the coming years.
Nigeria is Germany’s second-largest trade partner in Africa and by returning the items it hopes to start a new chapter for future bilateral relations
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Nigeria’s foreign affairs minister Geoffrey Onyeama said the nation felt deep gratitude to Germany for returning the artefacts and said that Beyond their aesthetic value, they have cultural and spiritual importance to the Nigerian people. He called on England and other countries in possession of other artefacts to return them on moral grounds.
Activists say there needs to be more accountability that goes beyond the return of the items such as compensation for the losses incurred by African countries throughout years of looting.
Thousands of Benin Bronzes are scattered in museums worldwide after being looted by Britain in the late 19th century.
A British colonial expedition looted vast quantities of treasures in 1897 from the royal palace of the Kingdom of Benin which are still held in Western museums and collections. Aljaazera