Ownership of Benin bronzes in Cologne returned to Nigeria

No fewer than 92 Benin bronzes from Cologne’s Rautenstrauch-Joest Museum now officially belong to Nigeria again.

The return of the ownership of the bronzes followed the signing of an agreement between the museum and Nigeria.

The Mayor of the German city, Henriette Reker, and the Director General of Nigeria’s National Commission for Museums and Monuments, Abba Isa Tijani, signed an agreement on the transfer of ownership in Cologne on Thursday.

“This is a milestone in a decades-long, difficult debate about the restitution of looted art, with national and international significance,” Reker said.

The British Army looted the bronze sculptures in 1897 from the ruling palace of the kingdom of Benin, located in what is now Nigeria.

The works of art were auctioned all over Europe.

Some 1,100 of them were in about 20 German museums.

This summer, Germany and Nigeria agreed on a process by which to transfer ownership of the looted objects, including repatriating some of them.

Three of the artworks from Cologne are to be brought back to Nigeria this month, and 52 of the bronzes are to be gradually repatriated in 2023.

Some 37 items will remain on loan to Cologne for an initial period of 10 years, as the two countries had agreed.


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