Returning colonial looted art to its countries of origin | DW Documentary

Colonial looted art is finally being returned to its countries of origin. But new problems lie ahead, as former colonies now fear the return of looted art may take the place of a comprehensive reparation for colonial crimes.

The documentary shows how the return of looted art leads to new disputes. One example is Nigeria. In move that would’ve been considered unthinkable just a few years ago, Germany is returning a large part of the disputed Benin bronzes to Nigeria. For years, legal arguments had been made as to why the bronzes were “rightfully” in Germany despite colonial crimes. Now, however, a heightened awareness of post-colonialism moral obligations is increasingly determining action.
But descendants of Nigerian slaves have criticized the terms of the return of the Benin bronzes. These cultural goods are being returned to Benin City – a center of the criminal slave trade. So is restitution being made to former perpetrators? Were too few descendants of those affected included in the restitution considerations?
To whom exactly should the looted cultural treasures be returned? To nation states whose arbitrary borders are often themselves the result of colonialism? Or to the descendants of traditional cultures of origin within these states, who were once the victims of colonial encroachment? Debates about this have only just begun. What are the arguments in favor of art historian Bénédicte Savoy’s “give it all back” demands? And is there merit to the warnings of ethnologist Brigitta Hauser-Schäublin, who says: “You are gambling away world heritage”?
The shift in position on looted art also affects Europe. Poland and Germany, for example, are fighting over the precious manuscripts of the “Berlinka” collection in Krakow. The indigenous Samí people in the far north of Scandinavia also have justified claims for restitution – and not just to Berlin.

#documentary #dwdocumentary #colonialism #africa #nigeria #germany

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