By MICHEL OTI
This is perhaps the most important agreement signed by a European nation with Nigeria in cultural diplomacy,” Yusuf Tuggar, Nigeria’s ambassador to Germany, told DW after the agreement was signed on Friday. restitution of more than 1,000 Beninese bronze artifacts. “This is a very important achievement, a very important step and we hope it will lead to the return not only of the bronzes from Benin, but also of other cultural property stolen from other countries.” In total, German museums hold more than 1,130 artifacts. They are distributed in the Linden Museum in Stuttgart, the Berlin Humboldt Forum, the Cologne Rautenstrauch-Joest Museum, the Hamburg Museum for World Cultures and the State Ethnographic Collections of Saxony. The importance of the decision to return the Benin Bronzes is highlighted by the leader of the Bana people in Cameroon, Fon Sikam Happi V.
” It is a very good thing. This will allow Africa to come to terms with its past and reclaim these objects which would never have left Africa” if the colonizers had not taken them, Fon Happi told DW. Valuable artifacts were stolen from the former Kingdom of Benin by the British when they sacked Benin City in 1897. The royal palace was razed to the ground and Benin City in present-day Nigeria’s Edo State was almost destroyed. For many Edo residents, the news of the return could not have come at a better time. “We are really happy with the news of the return of the Benin artifacts,” Osaro told DW on Friday. “Our heritage and assets that were stolen years ago are returned to the rightful owner, Benin Kingdom. We are really happy.
Restitution campaigner Lancelot Imansuen thinks the move will inspire creatives. “As an artist, as a man from Edo, as a creative, I feel very happy about this decision by the German government to return these works of art,” he told DW. Many across Nigeria see this as an opportunity to learn their history.
“It’s like physical history for us. Everybody today can see that and know that our people had history and they were civilized to some degree because all of those artifacts are not toys, they tell a story,” Samuel Marv, a history graduate and user interface designer, said in an interview with DW.
Although there is excitement about the return of cultural artefacts to Africa, questions remain about the payment of compensation. “Beyond the return of stolen objects exhibited in European museums, compensation must be paid. This would help Africa build proper museums to house these artefacts,” Fon Happi added. Ify James, an independent contractor, told DW: “I think bringing the bronzes back from Benin should come with huge compensation because it made them loads of money while they had them.”
The commotion is particularly strong on Facebook. Justin Curtis, a user from Liberia, commented on a DW Africa video of the bronzes that “the healing process should be extended to paying for what has been done to Africa. It is a new way of seeing Africans as partners in a comprehensive solution to the many challenges we all face as a people”.
Harry Koffi, another user of DW Africa’s Facebook page, added: “They must also return any funds they have accrued from the museums that housed these artifacts.”
And while Germany is unlikely to pay monetary compensation, German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said at the official ceremony on Friday that the country is “helping Nigeria to establish a new museum in Benin City, which will will also exhibit Benin bronzes in the future”. .”
This article was provided by Deutsche Welle