German cultural and political leaders have reached a deal to return ancient, pillaged artefacts known as the Benin Bronzes to Nigeria next year. The ancient artworks were plundered in the 19th-century colonial era and are currently on display in German museums.
Most of the artefacts were looted by British forces during a military expedition to the kingdom, in what is now Nigeria, in 1897.
“We want to contribute to understanding and reconciliation with the descendants of those whose cultural treasures were stolen during colonisation,” Germany’s Culture Minister Monika Gruetters said on Thursday.
In recent years, European former colonial powers have been considering returning the works of art that were distributed across different museums.
Thousands of sculptures and carvings were taken during the destruction of Benin City and there have been growing calls for the return of such items.
After the decision on Thursday, the next step will be to develop a road map for the return, which should be completed in the next few months.
That will mean inventorying all the items by June 15, followed by a meeting on June 29 to consider the best approach.