Participation in the Benin Dialogue

Already in 2002, the intensive preparations for the exhibition Benin – Kings and Rituals. Court Arts from Nigeria,  shown 2007 in Vienna,  laid the foundations for the collaboration with the National Commission for Museums and Monuments Nigeria (NCMM).

In 2010, the NCCM, together with the Weltmuseum Wien, initiated an open dialogue to examine new joint perspectives on the difficult heritage of the art treasures from the Benin Kingdom dispersed throughout the world due to a colonial war in the 19th century.

As a first step, the joint workshop New Cultures of Collaboration. Sharing of Collections and Quests for Restitution: the Benin Case in Vienna (Dec 2 & 3, 2010) was organized. For this, representatives of the royal court in Benin, the NCMM, Nigeria and from European museums with significant collections (British Museum, London; Ethnologisches Museum Berlin; Museum of Ethnography Stockholm) as well as legal experts from Nigeria and Austria were invited to present and discuss their perspectives. At this first meeting, it was agreed to continuously enable the participation of more museums and hold meetings on a regular basis.

The dialogue continued in October 2011 with the invitation from the Ethnologisches Museum Berlin under the title New Cultures of Collaboration – Sharing of Collections with additional participation of the Ethnographic State Collections Saxony and the Museum Volkenkunde, Leiden. In this workshop, German funding programmes and grants for visiting scholars were introduced; additionally, it was agreed that the collections from the Benin Kingdom of the participating museums would be made available online to facilitate future research.

In February 2013, the dialogue continued further in Benin City with the workshop Meeting of Nigerian Officials and European Representatives over Benin Bronzes in European Museums. The workshop  concluded in a press conference presenting the Benin Plan of Action. Since 2017, periodical meetings of the participants have taken place based on the collaboration achieved so far.

An official press statement from the latest meeting 2023 in Hamburg can be found here.

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