On the occasion of the visit by a German delegation to Abuja, a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on museum cooperation was signed on 13 October 2021 by Prof. Abba Isa Tijani, Director General of the Nigerian National Commission for Museums and Monuments (NCMM), and Dr Andreas Görgen, Director-General for Cultural Affairs at the Federal Foreign Office.
The German delegation also included Prof. Barbara Plankensteiner, Director of the Museum am Rothenbaum – Kulturen und Künste der Welt (World Cultures and Arts, MARKK) and spokesperson of the Benin Dialogue Group, as well as Prof. Hermann Parzinger, President of the Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation.
After an initial visit to Nigeria in May 2021, a visit by a Nigerian delegation to Berlin at the beginning of July and the current visit to Abuja, the MoU stipulates that the return of Benin bronzes from German museums will be embedded in a broad collaboration in the areas of archaeology, museum facilities and museum cooperation.
Both sides affirmed that the process leading to returns of Benin bronzes will begin in the second quarter of 2022 with transfers of ownership. A framework agreement to this end is to be concluded in December 2021.
Both sides also agreed that Benin bronzes will continue to be exhibited in German museums and that there will be cooperation on exhibition projects.
Prof. Barbara Plankensteiner said the following in this regard:
Our talks were friendly and characterised by a great deal of consensus. I am very pleased with the result, which concretises the return project and underscores our future cooperation. We were thus able to further the interests of all the museums involved.
Prof. Hermann Parzinger issued the following statement:
It is important that, following our previous meetings, we were able at our third meeting to create a reliable basis for the return of Benin bronzes and for our further cooperation. I am certain that this cooperation will be a pioneering model for the approach to looted art from the colonial period.
Dr Andreas Görgen said the following on behalf of the Federal Foreign Office:
We have taken the next important step with this Memorandum of Understanding. The basis for this is the joint efforts by the Federation, Länder, municipalities and museums outlined in their statement of 29 April 2021. Far beyond the issue of returns, we are reshaping cultural policy relations with Nigeria thanks to the progress made today.
The next meeting is scheduled to take place in Germany in December 2021.
Click here for the statement of 29 April 2021