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Should African Art Still be on Exhibition in Europe?

The opening of Europe’s biggest cultural project in the heart of Berlin was meant to be a moment to celebrate the city’s cosmopolitan confidence. Instead, the Humboldt Forum museum has found itself at the centre of an increasingly toxic debate about colonialism and looted art. Critics have drawn attention to the often problematic provenance of the ethnic treasures that will be on display. Nigeria last week demanded the restitution of the Benin Bronzes, a group of plaques and sculptures that once decorated the royal palace of the Kingdom of Benin and were looted by British forces in 1897. “A lot of these objects were stolen, robbed, looted,” said Mnyaka Sururu Mboro, a Tanzanian activist and founder of the NGO Berlin Postkolonial. “Some were used in rituals and prayers — it is like taking the altar from a Catholic church.”