After long debates on the works of art of colonial origin looted in the past, Germany now wants to make significant restitutions. The famous Benin bronzes have been presented in Berlin since Saturday, September 17, before being returned to Nigeria. But some of these works will remain in the German capital on loan.
From our correspondent in Berlin, Pascal Thibault
The Humboldt Forum, a museum in the heart of Berlin, is now complete. Almost two years after the opening of the 40,000m² building, the last collections of non-European works have been opened. The public rushed, this weekend of September 17-18, to discover them.
Two rooms house the Benin bronzes before their restitution to nigeria. A declaration of intent was signed in early July between Berlin and Abuja. The museums of the German capital have signed a contract for this purpose, for more than 500 works they hold. A third of them will remain presented in Berlin. Chairman of the Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation, Hermann Parzinger, says:
” What we present in our collections is already no longer our property, and that’s a good thing. But it was Nigeria’s choice that these bronzes remain present here and that visitors can discover them. »
Long discussions were necessary to get there. Germany has not always been so cooperative. Exhibiting works looted at the end of the 19th century in a building that was a copy of the castle of the German Empire, a colonial power at the time, sparked many debates.
Visitors, many during this weekend, greet the new exhibition spaces. One of them says: I think this attempt to bring art, science and history together with society is great, and it’s fantastic in this building. »
The bronzes of Benin, which will remain in Berlin, are loaned for ten years by Nigeria. Beyond that, new negotiations will be necessary.
► Also to listen: The podcast “La vie d’ici” devoted to the art of bronze in Benin