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Gemany agrees to repatriate Nigerian bronzes looted in colonial times

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By Daniel Bellamy  with AFP
Gemany agrees to repatriate Nigerian bronzes looted in colonial times
Copyright  AP

Cultural treasures looted from Africa and sold to museums in Europe have long been seen as symbols of colonial injustice.

But in an historic move, Germany has agreed to repatriate hundreds of Benin Bronzes that are currently in the Humboldt-Forum museum in Berlin to Nigeria next year.

The sculptures decorated royal palaces in the former kingdom of Benin from the 16th to the 18th century, in what was present-day southern Nigeria.

Then in 1897 British troops invaded and conquered Nigeria and looted thousands of artifacts.

More than a thousand bronzes found their way into several German museums but now the government has decided they should be repatriated.

"We want to send a signal that we want to contribute to reconciliation with understanding and also out of respect for the other side," Germany's Minister of Culture Monika Gruetters said.

The Benin bronzes demonstrate that, contrary to colonialist narratives, African cultures had been creating artifacts of sophisticated workmanship centuries before Europeans arrived in the continent.

Nigeria now plans to build a museum in Benin City to exhibit the bronzes so that Nigerians can see them for themselves.