Swiss Benin Initiative

Benin gelb

The Kingdom of Benin in modern-day Nigeria looks back on a long history of entanglement with the Global North, reaching back to the 15th century. While in the early contact years, the emphasis was on cultural exchange and trade (among other things, brass items), the colonial expansion and conquest of the African continent culminated in a military operation carried out by the British army against the capital of Benin City in 1897. In the course of the action, the palace was burnt to the ground and the king (Oba) exiled. Roughly 10,000 items made of bronze, ivory, and wood were looted. The items, which became known as the “Benin Bronzes”, found their way into private and public collections across the world through the art trade – among others into Swiss museums.