In 1897, during a colonial conflict with the Kingdom of Benin (in present-day Nigeria), British soldiers burned down the palace of the king and looted more than 2,500 bronze and ivory artefacts. Only four years after the looting of the Benin palace, most of the artefacts that were taken had become part of museum collections in Europe. Almost half of them were bought by museums in Germany.
This video accompanies the Nigerian art historian and artist Peju Layiwola and the Namibian historian and artist Memory Biwa during a visit to the collection of Benin bronzes held by the Ethnological Museum in Berlin. It is their second visit on the same day, immediately following a tour with the two curators of the museum’s African collection. While the Berlin curators remain absent, the almost whispered dialogue between the two activists unfolds a moment of resistance, both intimate and decisive, to the structural omissions of the institution’s voice.