in GRASSI Museum Leipzig

Restitution of Benin objects

On 29 April 2021, the Saxon Minister of State for Culture and Tourism Barbara Klepsch and the Director of the GRASSI Museum für Völkerkunde zu Leipzig, Léontine Meijer-van Mensch, took part in the discussion round of the Minister of State for Culture Monika Grütters on the restitution of Benin objects. The political signal for the return of the looted objects was given. Monika Grütters, Minister of State for Culture, said:

"We are facing up to the historical and moral responsibility of bringing Germany's colonial past to light and coming to terms with it. [...] I am glad and grateful that we have been able to agree on the common goal of developing a coordinated stance in Germany and reaching a common understanding with the Nigerian side. In addition to the greatest possible transparency, we are above all striving for substantial restitution. In this way, we would like to contribute to understanding and reconciliation with the descendants of the people who were robbed of their cultural treasures during the period of colonialism. We are planning the first returns in the course of 2022."

The GRASSI Museum für Völkerkunde zu Leipzig and also the Museum für Völkerkunde Dresden hold objects from the former Kingdom of Benin. The restitution of looted objects is not only an ethical and moral duty, but also the beginning of a transnational exchange to tell the effects of colonialism to this day as part of a common history.

Read more (in German)

Heidelberger Statement

In accordance with the Annual Conference of Directors of Ethnographic Museums in the German speaking context 2019 the following official statement was published in Heidelberg on 6 May 2019.

Heidelberg Statement

Press Statement Benin Dialogue Group 2019

Founded in Vienna in 2010 the Benin Dialogue Group (BDG) brings together state and regional representatives of cultural politics, museum representatives and representatives of the Royal Court of Benin City/Nigeria and European curators for African collections from Vienna, Berlin, Dresden/Leipzig, London, Leiden, Stockholm, Hamburg, Stuttgart, Oxford and Cambridge. Those European collections house important objects and private collections from historic Benin Kingdom in current day Nigeria. Informally speaking, all members of the BDG jointly aim to create a friendly and trustful environment. Some of the objectives proclaimed from the beginning are opening the collections, the digitalisation of collections and academic exchange. A digital inventory of Benin objects being kept in the museums of the world will be put up in order to maintain cooperative projects and exchange, but also to facilitate resititution of objects to Benin City where they will be added to a newly planned museal centre in 2021/22.

Press Statement  Benin Dialogue Group 2019

Upcoming events

  • Design Campus Digital Talk

    Whose lives, bodies and data are affected by new digital power structures that exacerbate older forms of exploitation, dispossession and appropriation? By centering on migrant workforces hidden behind processes of automation, Ariana Dongus will discuss how data colonialism, meaning data-driven and algorithmic forms of occupation, dispossession and exploitation affect populations that are usually neglected by Western discourses around tech companies and critiques of surveillance capitalism.


    In so doing, she aims to demystify AI by showing how technology is not neutral and objective: Historically grown social injustices, discriminations and inequalities are deeply woven into the fabric of contemporary high-tech and reproduce colonial power structures. The more AI emerges as a paradigm in digital capitalism, the higher the demand for cheap labor whose subjects are to be found behind screens and smartphones around the globe. By showing how much human labor is still needed to make AI applications appear 'autonomous' and 'smart', the lecture contributes to a materialist critique of digital economies today and argues against the myth of AI as an ’automation machine’: rather than replacing a workforce, it displaces it onto a new migrant one, shifting it to the minds and hands of a precarious low-cost workers.


    Ariana Dongus is a doctoral candidate and research associate at the Staatliche Hochschule für Gestaltung (HfG) Karlsruhe. In 2021, she was awarded as „AI Newcomer“ by the German Ministry of Education and the Society for Informatics. At HfG, she coordinates the research group KIM (Artificial Intelligence and Media Philosophy) founded by Prof. Pasquinelli, as well as a research project in the program "AI and the Society of the Future" funded by the Volkswagen Foundation. In exploring the intersection of biometrics, colonial pasts, new forms of work and machine 'intelligence', she contributes to a critique of today’s digital economies. She has held workshops and lectured nationally and internationally, for example at Ars Electronica, transmediale, PACT Zollverein, Bern University of the Arts, Shanghai Ming Contemporary Art Museum, the Ljubljana Biennial of Graphic Arts or during the European Media Art Festival.


    The event will be livestreamed on our Youtube-Channel.

    • Treff: Digital; Link unter "Mehr erfahren"
    • Teilnahmegebühr: Free of charge
    • Kontakt:
  • Sächsischer Staatspreis für Design zu Gast im Kunstgewerbemuem

    Gespräch und Führung mit Thomas A. Geisler

    • Teilnahmegebühr: 3€/5€ Junge Freunde/Gäste
    • Kontakt: Teilnahme nach bestätigter Anmeldung unter, aktuelle Infos unter
  • Design Campus Digital Talk



    The talk traces the visual story of the ballot, from early handwritten tickets to colorful and typographically outlandish examples from the 19th century. Responding to the explosive growth of an evolving electorate as well as a legacy of fraud, the struggle for suffrage, and concerns about voting security, the ballot reveals insights into electoral processes past and present.


    The event will be livestreamed on our Youtube-Channel.


    Alicia Cheng is a founding partner of MGMT and is currently the Head of Design at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. She has worked as a senior designer for Method, New York and was the co-design director at the Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum. She has taught and served as a visiting critic at Yale University, Princeton University, the Maryland Institute College of Art, and the Cooper Union School of Art. She currently serves as an external critic for the MFA program at the Rhode Island School of Design. 

    • Treff: Digital; Link unter "Mehr erfahren"
    • Teilnahmegebühr: Free of charge
    • Kontakt:

History of the collection

The Leipzig ethnographical museum was built on the universal collection amassed by the Dresden court councillor and librarian Gustav Klemm, whose aim was to document the cultural history of humanity. Today, the museum holds around 200,000 objects and 150,000 historical photographs and documents.

History of the collection

Elefantenstatue mit vielen Köpfen und Armen, davor ein großes Mandala

From our Online Collection

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