Germany is planning to re-launch the artefacts known as Benin bronzes that have been preserved in their archives in Nigeria from next year, according to officials.
A colonial expedition in which British troops occupied thousands and thousands of statues in 1897 in revolt against the Kingdom of Benin, which was different from Nigeria under British rule.
The bronzes – which were bronze sculptures, many of which featured court appearances – were sold and sold to organizations from New Zealand to Germany and the United States, by a large group in London.
In recent years, phones are ringing loudly to recover what was stolen, which was partially fueled by a coup d’état throughout Europe.
“We are fighting for our past and moral integrity,” German Minister of Culture Monika Gruetters said in a joint statement by the German Foreign Ministry and German Museum at the end of Thursday.
“We want to help understand and reconcile with the descendants of the people who were deprived of their property during the colonial period,” Gruetters said, adding that the first return is planned for next year.
German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas, meanwhile, welcomed the agreement reached with the museum with Nigerian officials to work on the restoration of “more” items, calling them “changes in changing our colonial history”.
The historian welcomed the idea, but said it did not go far enough.
“Unfortunately, there is no real timeline or total commitment to recovering all the damage,” said Juergen Zimmerer, a professor of international history at the University of Hamburg.
He also said it was unclear how many items would be returned, or whether there would be any recognition that government agencies want to restore.
The Ethnologisches Museum in Berlin contains over 500 items from the Kingdom of Benin in its categories, mainly bronzes.
Last month, the University of Aberdeen in Scotland became one of the first state institutions to accept a non-bronze return that was seized.
The British Museum, home to hundreds of statues, is located near the Benin Dialogue Group’s exhibition center to discuss exhibitions in Benin City, some of which are on credit.
Plans are underway in Edo state of Nigeria, where Benin City is headquartered, to build a museum and study archeology by the end of 2021, and a permanent museum by 2025.
The National Museum of Ireland is also working to recover stolen property. The Church of England, which did not take part in the looting but was given two brass buses in 1982, has also indicated it will return them.
Although taken with a lot of salt, the announcements are welcome in Nigeria, according to artist and historian Peju Layiwola.
For years, he has been using his paintings to make people aware of bronzes, believing them to be irrefutable evidence of the volatile nature of violence in Benin City.
“You can tell by looking at the metalworking that it was a very prosperous development, as it is today,” Layiwola, a native of the Benin royal family, told Al Jazeera earlier this month.
“The artists were not only experts in metal sculpture, but also in their understanding of decoration, their ability to interpret traditional meanings; definitions that still apply to this day. ”
Despite the rhetoric, few Nigerians today have seen the confiscated copper – many are being stored on the other side.
This, Layiwola said, hinders them from having a history of their own, which hinders them from associating with colonial history.
“We were told that our culture was vulgar, that our religion was occult, and that we were pagans. That is why we need to have a different kind of reform, a new way of looking at African culture as a whole – not the one described by others, “Layiwola added.
“Returning bronzes is the key to this.”