In Germany, a new museum stirs up a colonial controversy
Berlin's Humboldt Forum is reigniting debate over who has the right to own and display Africa's heritage.
For years, the head of a queen sat in storage in a building in Berlin. Her face is smooth, but her head is intricately engraved and topped with a crown befitting a lyoba—a matriarch figure from the Kingdom of Benin, in present day Nigeria.
Carved in the early 16th century, it is one of more than a thousand metal sculptures looted by British soldiers as they plundered Benin City in 1897. In the century since, the so-called Benin Bronzes have been bought and sold by museums and private collectors across Europe and North America, and today they are among the most coveted African artifacts in the world.
All of which poses a major problem for Europe’s newest museum. Twenty years in the