German Foreign minister Annalena Baerbock travelled to Nigeria’s capital Abuja on Tuesday to personally hand over a collection of more than 20 objects that were stolen by British colonial troops over a century ago.
The artefacts were stolen from the ancient Kingdom of Benin located in what is now southwest Nigeria.
“We are here to right a wrong. Officials from my country once bought the bronzes, knowing that they had been robbed and stolen. After that, we ignored Nigeria’s plea to return them for a very long time. It was wrong to take them but it was also wrong to keep them. This is a story of European colonialism”, said German Foreign minister, Annalena Baerbock.
In 1897 a British military expedition attacked and destroyed Benin City, making off with thousands of metal and ivory sculptures.
Speaking at a ceremony with Nigerian officials, the German minister stressed the importance of this historical moment.
“We are not returning mere objects to you, to the Nigerian people today. We have learned from you within the last years, what we are returning is a part of your history, what we are returning is a part of who you are”, she said.
Germany’s initiative follows similar actions taken by former colonial powers such as the United Kingdom, France and Belgium.
“The British Museum and all those holding onto our artefacts must understand that repatriation is a course whose time has come. They must also understand that many of these cultural objects are not mere art to us but the true essence of our being”, declared Lai Mohammed, Nigeria minister for Information and Culture.
Earlier this year, Nigeria’s neighbour Benin inaugurated an exhibition of artworks and treasures returned by France after two years of negotiations.