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Swiss museums want to discuss looted Benin kingdom art with Nigeria

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Eight Swiss museums want to consult with Nigeria about50 objects in their collections that were probably looted from the former kingdom of Benin.

It is conceivable that the ownership could be "transferred," which could mean both the return to Nigeria and the conversion into a permanent loan, the museums announced on Thursday.

The eight Swiss museums have identified a total of 96 objects from Benin. About a half are certain or very likely to come from the raid by British troops in 1897, the museums reported. The troops had stormed the capital of Benin, looted the royal palace and then burned it down. They are said to have taken 10,000 objects with them.

The former kingdom in the south of Nigeria is unconnected to the modern African republic of Benin.

There is frequent talk of the "Benin bronzes," but the objects are also made of other materials. They reached Switzerland via the art trade.

In December, German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock visited Nigeria and handed over the first 20 Benin bronzes from German stocks.

The Swiss initiative involves, among others, the Rietberg Museum andthe Ethnological Museum of the University of Zurich as well as the Museum of Cultures in Basel. — dpa

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