Benin bronzes on show ahead of restitution          

by • September 7, 2022 • FeaturedArticle, NewsComments (0)224

By John Owoo

(In Hamburg – Germany)

A total of 179 looted artefacts, which are currently on show at the Museum am Rothenbaum Kulturen und Künste der welt in the Germany city of Hamburg, will soon find their way to their country of origin – Nigeria. 

The exhibition confronts Germany’s colonial legacy with curators presenting the collection in its entirety for the first time in a century. Indeed, the works are shown alongside contemporary objects and testimonials from Nigerians, who are already celebrating the significance of their return.

Titled “Benin: Looted History”, the exhibition, which opened in December 2021, is showcasing an impressive array of bronze, ivory and wood works alongside jewelry, which were looted largely from then Kingdom of Benin (now Edo State). Undeniably, they are scheduled to be restituted together with over 1,000 additional objects from other German museums.

Edo Museum of West African Art, which is currently under construction, will house the returned objects that were looted by British troops in a retributive expedition in 1897 in which the Benin Royal Palace was ransacked and burned.

However, dealers and shippers in Hamburg laid their hands on them and re-distributed these artifacts across Western Europe with a good number of them remaining in Hamburg and other parts of Germany.

The artefacts, which are exceptional artworks with world historical significance, were commissioned by the royal family around the 16th century and created by talented craftsmen and women, who were at the service of the royals.

Ministry of Culture and Media of the Free and Hanseatic City of Hamburg, Ernst von Siemens Kunststiftung, Hubertus Wald Stiftung, Herbert-Pumplün-Stiftung, Freunde des Museums am Rothembaum and the German Lost Art Foundation are supporting the exhibition.

The exhibition is expected to run until the precise date of the restitution is coordinated.

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