The Humboldt Forum, a museum of non-European art in Berlin, Germany has agreed to return the looted Benin kingdom bronzes to Nigeria.


Hartmut Dorgerloh, general-director of the Humboldt Forum, who broke the news in a statement on Monday, said a decision would be made on the return of the bronzes after the summer.

The bronzes, currently housed at the Ethnological Museum in Berlin, will be returned to the palace of the Oba of Benin in Edo state.

The looted bronzes were said to have been stolen from Benin city in 1897 and considered to be among the most important and valuable African works of art.  Some of them were thereafter transferred from London to European museums after they were sold.

Andreas Görgen, who is responsible for culture at the foreign office, had earlier visited Nigeria where he met Godwin Obaseki, governor of Edo state, and other stakeholders to negotiate the modalities of the return of the works of art.


It is understood that a “non-government trust is planned to which the pieces are to be returned.”


The decision over the return of the bronzes is expected to be taken by the board of trustees (BoT) Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation.

The Benin bronzes are to be excluded from other works of art currently in exhibition at Humboldt Forum amid talks of restitution.

The move is expected to have indirect consequences on other museums such as Hamburg and Stuttgart, which also have Benin bronzes and are still showing them in their exhibitions.

Repatriation of the bronzes and other artworks looted from Africa during the colonial period have become a subject of heated controversies with opinions often divided on their legitimate origins.


Editor’s note: This picture was used for illustrative purposes only.

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