Germany to return Benin Bronzes to Nigeria

The Government of Germany recently announced that it is to return the artefacts called the “Benin Bronzes” to Nigeria. The “Benin Bronzes” are currently held in the museum of Germany.

What are Benin Bronzes?

  • They are a group of thousand metal sculptures. These sculptures once decorated the royal palace of Kingdom of Benin, the current Nigeria. Some of these sculptures were looted by the British during the Benin Expedition of 1897.
  • Though they are named as bronzes, they are mostly made of brass. They are also made of mixtures of brass and bronze. Some of them are even made of ivory, wood or ceramic.
  • The golden ages of the sculptures occurred during the reigns of Esigie and Eresoyen.

How are Benin Bronzes made?

They are made using lost-wax casting process. It is a process of making copies from a model. The method had been used in Indus Valley Civilisation as well.

Benin Expedition of 1897

It was a punitive expedition of British force under Sir Harry Rawson. The troops captured Benin city and put an end the Kingdom of Benin. It was then absorbed into colonial Nigeria.

Other countries on Benin Bronzes

  • The University of Aberdeen in Scotland was the first institute to agree to return the Benin Bronzes.
  • The National Museum of Ireland has agreed to return the artefacts as well.
  • Similarly, the Church of England also signalled that it will repatriate the sculptures.

Indian Sculptures in other foreign countries

Kohinoor Diamond in UK

Jagadamba, the Sword of Shivaji Maharaj
Shivaji had three swords. They were Jagdamba, Bhawani and Tulja. The sword Jagdamba was presented by the Prince of Wales, Edward VII when he visited India. The sword is now in Buckingham palace.

Tipu’s Tiger
It is a wooden toy created by Tipu Sultan in the 18th century. It depicts a tiger injuring a European man brutally. When the handle in the side of the toy is turned the tiger makes a roaring sound and the man wails lifting his arms up and down. It in now in Victoria and Albert Museum, London.

Ambika Statute
It is a marble statue of Goddess Ambika. It was discovered in the late 19th century. It is now in Britain. There has been huge demand to bring back the statue to the Saraswati temple in Madhya Pradesh.

Royal Jade Wine Cup of Shah Jahan
The cup dates back to 1657. The bottom of the cup features acanthus leaves and a lotus flower. It was one of the elegant treasures of Mughal dynasty. It is now in the possession of Victoria and Albert Museum, London.

Maharaja Ranjit Singh throne
Maharaja Ranjit Singh was the leader of the Sikhs. The throne is made of wood and covered with sheets of gold. It was taken by the British after the Second Anglo Sikh war. It is now in Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Sultanganj Buddha
It is a sculpture of Gauthama Buddha. It dates back to 7th century. It is now in Britain.


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