The debate about art from colonial times has long included the valuable Benin bronzes. Now Germany and Nigeria are paving the way for a new way of dealing with the art treasures.

Germany and Nigeria have cleared the way for the repatriation of art objects stolen during the colonial era.

With a “joint declaration on the return of the Benin bronzes” on Friday in Berlin, a framework was created for how the property rights to the valuable pieces can be transferred from German museums to Nigeria.

“Unconditional return”

Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock, Minister of State for Culture Claudia Roth (both Green), Nigerian Minister of Culture Lai Mohammed and Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Zubairo Dada signed the four-page and twelve-point agreement, which provides for an “unconditional return”. At the same time, both sides want “that the German public museums and institutions can continue to exhibit the Benin bronzes as loans”.

Two bronzes from Berlin holdings were handed over immediately afterwards. Around 1100 of the artistic pieces from the palace of the then Kingdom of Benin, which today belongs to Nigeria as the Edo State, can be found in around 20 German museums. Most of the objects come from the British looting of 1897.