Benin Bronzes in Germany

 

The Minister of State for Culture and the Media, Monika Grütters, the directors of the German museums belonging to the Benin Dialogue Group, the responsible Cultural Affairs Ministers of the Länder, and the Foreign Office met digitally on April 29, 2021 and agreed on a declaration on the handling of the Benin-Bronzes in German museums and institutions. The participants were in agreement that addressing Germany’s colonial past is an important issue for the whole of society and a core task for cultural policy. Fundamental political agreements have been reached and major steps taken in Germany over the past few years. Furthermore, German museums and institutions have implemented numerous measures to address the history and origin of their holdings. These include returning human remains and cultural objects from colonial contexts to their countries and societies of origin.

In addition, the participants agreed to, 1. create extensive transparency with regard to the Benin Bronzes in their collections and exhibitions; 2. hold further coordinated talks on returns and future cooperation with the Nigerian side at an early date; in this context, one aim will be to reach an understanding with the Nigerian partners on how Benin Bronzes can continue to be shown in Germany; 3. determine concrete actions and a timetable for the upcoming talks. The Statement on the handling of the Benin Bronzes in German museums and institutions can be found here.

Database of the Benin-Bronzes in Germany

In order to ensure the greatest possible transparency regarding the handling of the Benin Bronzes, it was agreed that the Contact Point for Collections from Colonial Contexts in Germany, funded jointly by the Federation and the Länder (the Contact Point), will publish a list of all Benin Bronzes held in the museums on its website (www.cp3c.org) by 15 June 2021 – in addition to the information on museums’ own websites. In addition, the museums will provide comprehensive documentation of the provenance of these objects and make it publicly accessible on the Contact Point’s website by the end of 2021. Where Benin Bronzes are shown in exhibitions, comprehensive information will be provided on their acquisition context.

The database of the Benin-Bronzes in Germany developed by the German Contact Point for Collections from Colonial Contexts can be accessed here.

The database includes informational on the objects that are commonly categorized as "Benin-Bronzes" and which are held in German museums. This categorization refers to court art and historical objects of the Kingdom of Benin (today part of Nigeria) that were plundered by British troops in 1897.

The database will be updated regularly and information from other institutions with relevant collections of Benin-Bronzes in Germany will be included. In addition, data quality will be improved continuously (image quality, dealing with inconsistencies, translation of German terms into English). At present (15 June 2021), the database presents information of the following German museums that are part of the Benin Dialogue Group:

Ethnological Museum of the Staatlichen Museen zu Berlin, Stiftung Preußischer Kulturbesitz

503 historical objects made in the Kingdom of Benin are part of the collections of the Ethnologisches Museum today and two bronzes are in the collections of the Museum Berggruen. A list offers an overview of these objects, as well as how and when they came into the Berlin collections.

Linden-Museum Stuttgart

Museum am Rothenbaum. Kulturen und Künste der Welt (MARKK) in Hamburg

Rautenstrauch Joest Museum – Kulturen der Welt in Köln

A directory of the Benin Collection in the Rautenstrauch-Joest-Museum can be found here.

Ethnographic Museums of Saxony within the consortium of the Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden (SKD)

 

 

This website will be updated regularly in the coming days.