German Culture Minister seeks “national strategy” on Benin bronzes, including restitution

Culture Minister Monika Grütters has announced her intention to bring together museums and state culture ministers to define a “national strategy” on Beninese bronzes from German museum collections which will involve restitution.

Grütters says she will invite the directors of the museums that hold the Benin bronzes, the culture ministers of the states where they are located and the representatives of the foreign ministries to a meeting in April to “come up with a common strategy, which should of course include restitutions, in intensive dialogue with the communities of origin.

A delegation from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs visited Benin City, Nigeria last week to lay the groundwork for future renditions. Under an agreement the ministry hopes to finalize by the summer, Germany would participate in archaeological excavations in the region, provide training for Nigerian museum workers, and help build a planned new museum in Benin. and restore the sculptures and reliefs looted in German. museum collections.

About 25 German museums are known to possess objects looted by British troops during the looting of the royal palace of the Kingdom of Benin in 1897. The most affected are the ethnological museum in Berlin, the museum für Völkerkunde in Dresden, the Grassi museum in Leipzig , the Rautenstrauch in Cologne-Joest Museum, the Linden Museum in Stuttgart and the Museum am Rothenbaum in Hamburg.

“Our approach to Benin bronzes is a touchstone for the German treatment of heritage from colonial contexts,” says Grütters.

The Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation, the organization that manages Berlin’s museums, including the ethnological collection to be exhibited at the Humboldt Forum from this fall, said in a statement yesterday that its board “has accepted in the case of the Benin bronzes to find a solution which also includes the return of optional objects.