Germany To Return All Benin Artefacts By 2022

Emperor Simon  
Updated May 18, 2021
Pair of Busts: King (Oba) and Queen, 2006. Edo, Nigeria. Brass. Weltmuseum Wien, Vienna Photo Credit:


Germany has agreed to return all Benin artefacts by 2022.

The artefacts are those taken from the Benin Royal Court following the British incursion in 1897.

This was announced on Tuesday at a press briefing in Abuja, the nation’s capital.

The event was attended by the Minister of Information, Lai Mohammed; Edo State Governor, Godwin Obaseki; and the German delegation.

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At the meeting, the German Director-General Culture and Communication, Dr Andreas Gorgen said Germany acknowledges that Nigeria has suffered a loss.

He said Germany is on a restitution mission to Nigeria, to return all artefacts taken from the Benin Empire.

He also announced that Germany will partner with Nigeria in the area of culture promotion and preservation

The artefacts are to be returned to Benin, Edo State capital.


Benin Invasion

On 12 January 1897, Rear-Admiral Harry Rawson, commander of the Royal Navy forces at the Cape of Good Hope and West Coast of Africa Station was appointed by the Admiralty to lead a force to invade the Kingdom of Benin, capture the Benin Oba and destroy Benin City.

The operation was named the Benin Punitive Expedition.

About 40% of the art was accessioned to the British Museum, while other works were given to individual members of the armed forces as spoils of war, and the remainder was sold at auction by the Admiralty.

Most of the Benin Bronzes sold at auction were purchased by museums, mainly in Germany.

The dispersal of Benin artworks to museums around the world catalysed the beginnings of a long and slow European reassessment of the value of West African art.

The Benin art was copied and the style integrated into the art of many European artists and thus had a strong influence on the early formation of modernism in Europe.