By Alex Stuart The culture ministers of all 16 German states have agreed to repatriate artefacts looted during the colonial era. This follows France’s 2017 promise to return African artefacts in French public collections. This sparked debate in Germany, particularly as it coincided with the completion of the Humboldt Forum, which is to exhibit 50,000 artefacts originally looted in Africa by colonizing forces. Now the ministers will work with museums to undertake ‘urgent’ provenance research and reach out to representatives of source countries to start the restitution process. €1.9 million has been allocated to provenance research this year, with German museums able to apply for funding from a special committee that includes Bénédicte Savoy, who originally took the public stance that pushed Macron to pledge restitution (read more here). This is an important step towards taking responsibility for colonial misdeeds, which have for years been a ‘blind spot’ in cultural policy, admits culture minister Monika Grütters. However, the expertise and money needed to repatriate the artefacts will significantly exceed that pledged so far; time will tell if Germany puts its resources where its mouth is and fully commit to the project.
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