German City Returns Art Looted During British Colonial Times That Is Worth Over EUR 58 Million

German authorities have returned a total of 179 art pieces to Nigeria after they were stolen during British colonial invasions in the former Kingdom of Benin.

The decision to deliver the so-called Benin bronzes back to the African federal republic was made by the Senate of the city of Hamburg, Germany, on Tuesday, 27th September.

Image shows a sculpture of crucified Jesus, undated photo. The city of Hamburg, Germany returned looted art stolen during British colonial times to Nigeria in September 2022. (MARKK/Newsflash)

Media reported that the handover is scheduled for the end of the year.

Estimated at EUR 58.7 million (GBP 52.5 million) the objects were reportedly stolen by British soldiers from the ex-kingdom of Benin.

According to the museum, between 3,000 and 5,000 objects were stolen from the former monarchy’s royal palace and were then distributed all around the globe.

A significant amount of them arrived in Great Britain and the USA when they were resold in 1987. Some of them then reached Germany through seafarers and merchants.

The Kingdom of Benin also known as the Edo Kingdom, or the Benin Empire was a monarchy within what is now southwestern Nigeria.

It reportedly has no historical relation to the modern republic of Benin and it lasted until it was annexed by the British Empire in 1897.

Culture Senator Carsten Brosda, 47, from the Social Democratic Party of Germany said in a statement obtained by Newsflash: “The Benin bronzes in Hamburg not only tell of colonial subjugation, robbery and decades of ignorance.

“They also embody the pride of an entire culture.

“Therefore we finally want to live up to our responsibility and combine the clear promise with this exhibition that all Benin objects located in Hamburg will be restituted.

“Our goal is to complete this fully and unconditionally in 2022.

“I hope that this exhibition not only marks the return of these unique art treasures, but also opens a new chapter in cultural exchange between Europe and Africa.

MARKK director Prof Barbara Plankensteiner stated: “It’s great that we were able to put on this exhibition at such short notice before the works are returned to where they belong.

“I would like us to say goodbye to these works by once again acknowledging their quality and importance for a global art history, while acknowledging their provenance as colonial loot.”

Brosda added: “We are facing an important part of our history. We will definitely go further and also subject our museum collections to constant review.”

The pieces can currently be seen as a part of the “Benin. Looted History” exhibition at the MARKK Museum at Rothenbaum (formerly known as the Ethnological Museum).

Detailed negotiations are currently underway with Nigeria about which of the works would remain in the city as permanent loans.


To find out more about the author, editor or agency that supplied this story – please click below.
Story By: Georgina JadikovskaSub-Editor: Marija Stojkoska, Agency:  Newsflash

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