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Germany to Return Looted Sculptures to Nigeria

FILE - A Benin Bronze sculpture is presented at the German Foreign Ministry prior to the signing ceremony of a joint declaration between Germany and Nigeria in Berlin, Germany, Friday, 7.1.2022

Germany and Nigeria have inked an agreement that would allow the repatriation of hundreds of artifacts known as the Benin Bronzes, which were looted from Africa more than 120 years ago.

Two pieces from the Berlin museum were handed over on July 1 as German and Nigerian officials signed their "joint political declaration" at the German Foreign Ministry in Berlin.

Germany is assisting Nigeria in the establishment of a new museum in Benin City, where bronzes will be shown in the future, according to German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock.

Germany, Nigeria Sign Deal to Repatriate Looted Sculptures
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“This is just the beginning of more than 1,000 pieces from the Kingdom of Benin that are still in German museums, and they all belong to the people of Nigeria,” Baerbock said. “It was wrong to take the bronzes; it was wrong to keep them for 120 years,” she added.

“Germany has taken the lead in correcting the wrongs of the past,” Nigerian Culture Minister Lai Mohammed said. Mohammed added that expects the move to "become a harbinger of more repatriation of cultural property.”

Officials did not specify a timeline for the repatriation of the other pieces, but Berlin's Ethnological Museum said that another agreement on the remaining bronzes will be made later this year. The museum's governing body said that it intends to keep select artifacts on long-term loan. Baerbock said she is looking forward to seeing bronzes “on holidays in Germany.”

“It is my sincere hope that other European countries ... will follow in your footsteps,” Nigeria's state minister for foreign affairs, Zubairu Dada, said of Friday's accord.