A plaque which decorated the palace of the Obas, Benin warriors are depicted in battle. Nigeria. Edo. Probably late 17th century. Benin City. (Photo by Werner Forman/Universal Images Group/Getty Images)
After many decades of inaction, many museums in the West have been forced to recognize that tucked into their storage facilities are a stunning array of wonders that were forcibly taken from the Benin Royal Palace in 1897 by the British on a so-called punitive expedition.
And now, finally, changes seem to be underway.
After the publication of a groundbreaking report in France by Felwine Sarr and Benedicte Savoy advising President Emmanuel Macron to return the Benin Bronzes in national collections, a portal opened, catalyzing other European nations to do the same. Suddenly, after so much silence, restitution finally seems like a real possibility.
Germany, which has some of the largest collections of the Benin bronzes after the U.K., announced last month it would begin returns in 2022. It is likely that many of the work will end up in the David Adjaye-designed Edo Museum of West African Art after it opens in 2025.