The Edo Museum of West Africa Art (EMOWAA) backed by the Governor Godwin Obaseki-led administration has gotten a major boost with German authorities committing to return the first of artefacts in 2022.
In a joint declaration, Germany’s Ministry of Culture, state ministers and museum directors committed to return Benin bronzes taken by the British army in a raid on the Kingdom of Benin, in present-day Nigeria, in 1897. The first set of the bronzes are to be returned in 2022.
Governor Obaseki has been at the forefront of calls to return the artefacts with his engagement with the Benin Dialogue Group, culminating in the setting up of the Legacy Restoration Trust, which has now secured funding and support for the construction of EMOWAA and excavation of relics of the old Benin Empire, including the famous Benin moat. The first set of buildings for the Museum is proposed to be ready by next year.
According to Germany’s Culture Minister, “We face a historic and moral responsibility to shine a light on Germany’s colonial past. We would like to contribute to an understanding and reconciliation with the descendants of the people who were robbed of their cultural treasures during the colonial era.”
The declaration outlines plan for the return of the first pieces next year and commitments for additional restitution.
The declaration also requires museums in possession of Benin objects to establish and document their provenance.