SPK Foundation Board on dealing with the Benin bronzes

News from 03/24/2021

Strategy for joint action of ethnological museums to be developed - return of objects is an option

At its meeting on March 24, 2021, the Board of the Stiftung Preussischer Kulturbesitz (Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation) considered, among other matters, the treatment of objects with colonial contexts in the collections. This included the issue of the Benin bronzes. The Foundation Board welcomes the fact that the Foundation has long been holding talks in the Benin Dialogue Group, among other channels, with the parties concerned in Nigeria and Benin City with the aim of finding a solution for the Benin bronzes in the collection of the Ethnologisches Museum (Ethnological Museum).

The President of the Foundation, Hermann Parzinger, was commissioned by the Foundation Board members, representing Germany’s federal and state governments, to work with the heads of the other ethnological museums in Germany that have Benin bronzes in their collections on developing a strategy for a joint approach to dealing with the Benin bronzes, which, by today's standards, are deemed to have been removed illegally. The matter had been discussed in advance at the latest top-level meeting on cultural policy between Minister of State Grütters and the ministers of culture of the states, on March 19, 2021, on the basis of the initial cornerstones for dealing with collections from colonial contexts, adopted in 2019 by the federal and state governments with civic umbrella organizations.

The Foundation Board emphasizes that the Stiftung Preussischer Kulturbesitz bears the responsibility for the treatment and presentation of the ethnological collections in the Humboldt Forum. This also applies to objects that might be returned, which is a decision for the Foundation Board of the Stiftung Preussischer Kulturbesitz. The representatives of the federal and state governments on the Foundation Board agree that in the case of the Benin bronzes, a solution will be found that also considers the return of objects as an option.

The Chairwoman of the Foundation Board, Minister of State for Culture Monika Grütters, welcomes the fact that those responsible at the Stiftung Preussischer Kulturbesitz have, for several years, engaged in intensive dialogue on equal terms with the societies of origin, and that they have exercised the requisite sensitivity and expertise in order to achieve the greatest possible transparency. In this connection, an important first step has been taken by digitizing all of the Benin bronzes in Berlin and making them accessible in digital form online.

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