We publish below a press release from Postkolonial Berlin urging Germany to surrender all ownership rights to colonial cultural artefacts it acquired by use of force or without the consent of the owners.
This demand summarizes in many ways what the whole debate on restitution is about. Despite the complications that illegal holders of looted artefacts may present or create, the main question has always been: should colonial or former colonial powers be allowed to continue holding on to cultural objects they acquired through the use of force or without the consent of the African owners?
Should the museums in the Western world, such as British Museum, Humboldt Forum, Musée du Quai Branly, Louvre, Victoria and Albert Museum, World Museum, Vienna, be allowed to continue to enjoy and display cultural artefacts to which they have no moral right? The answer has been in recent times a resounding no. Many museums have tried to respond to the demands of our times and have returned a few objects or at least discussing with the African owners about possible restitution.
Germany has clearly seen the necessity for restitution and has surrendered ownership rights in 1130 Benin bronzes to Nigeria. But this is only a part of all the Benin artefacts in Germany. What about the rest? What about all the other Nigerian artefacts in German museums? What about the Yoruba, Igbo, Ibibio artefacts? What about the other African artefacts? Cameroonian objects such as the famous Bamum throne are still in Germany.
Germany must clearly adopt a general renunciation or several renunciations of ownership rights to colonially acquired artefacts.
The final opening of the Humboldt Forum may create a certain amount of euphoria leading many to believe or act as if the main objectives of the demands for justice and reparation have been satisfied. This is not true
We must continue the fight for the restitution of all African artefacts and in this respect, the press release of Postkolonial reminds us that the work is far from over even if Germany has taken the right steps as regards the restitution of the Benin artefacts.
PRESS RELEASE BERLIN POSTKOLONIAL ON FINAL OPENING OF HUMBOLDT FORUM
Final Opening of the Humboldt Forum: Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation must surrender ownership rights to all cultural treasures and body parts of colonized people
On the occasion of the final opening of the Humboldt Forum on September 16, 2022, we protest against the cynical display of cultural objects and even human bones from colonial contexts of injustice in the reconstructed palace of the Brandenburg-Prussian enslavement traders and the German colonial rulers.
Berlin Postkolonial welcomes the property restitution of the Benin bronzes as a success of the descendants of colonized people, who were able to break the current owners' decades-long resistance to restitution. However, the cultural treasures captured in Benin City represent only the tip of the (colonial) iceberg.
The vast majority of the colonial-era exhibits on display at the Humboldt Forum were appropriated without the consent of their rightful owners and are still being presented today without their explicit consent. We demand a nationwide regulation that grants the descendants of the colonized the right of ownership to their cultural treasures and ancestors.
No colonial objects or ancestors should be exhibited in the Humboldt Forum. Instead, the exhibition spaces should be used to critically address German and European colonialism and Imperialism and to honor anti-colonial resistance.
Contact: buero(at) berlin-postkolonial.de