Open Letter: Restitution of cultural objects and human remains from Africa

By Mnyaka Sururu Mboro & Christian Kopp
Letter Dr. Angela Merkel
Dr. Angela Merkel

Berlin, 18/12/2017

Dear Dr. Angela Merkel, Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany,

With great interest we have noted the speech given on 28 November 2017 in Ouagadougou by the French President Emmanuel Macron, in which he stated that he was no longer “able to accept that a large part of the cultural heritage of several African countries is in France”. We welcome the fact that the French Government, in cooperation with the African countries concerned, wants to enable a “temporary or permanent restitution of the African heritage” within the next five years. We also pay tribute to Emmanuel Macron's announcement of restoring human remains from a colonial context of injustice to Algeria.

France is responding to the intensifying and critical debate on colonial heritage, which concerns the other countries of the Global North as well. After all, it is not only French museums and private collections that have come into possession of hundreds of thousands of cultural objects and tens of thousands of human remains from all regions of Africa as a result of colonisation. The number of African artifacts in the major ethnological museums of North America and Europe is so high that more than 90% of all cultural treasures have never been shown. The amount of human remains from Africa is so great that, according to the museums, even 100 years after their acquisition, it has still not been possible to determine where and how they came into the collections.

At the same time, especially the ritual objects and the remains of their ancestors are sorely missed by members of the African source communities.

Germany has a key role to play in this situation. For it is not only here that the greatest number of museums with cultural treasures and human remains from all parts of the African continent can be found. In 1884/85, at the invitation of the French Republic and the German Reich, the infamous Africa or Congo Conference took place in its capital Berlin. The rules for the almost complete division of Africa among the European colonial powers were negotiated, thus creating the preconditions for the systematic appropriation of African cultural objects and human remains.

At the beginning of the European Cultural Heritage Year 2018, which will be entitled “Sharing Heritage”, we would, therefore, like to ask you, in your capacity as German Head of Government, to take a stance on the historic initiative of the French President. In the 100th year after the end of German colonialism in Africa, the Federal Government must not remain silent on the subject of restitution of ritual objects and ancestral remains from a colonial context of injustice.

Without a transparent, transnational and critical examination of the colonial heritage, trustful cooperation between people of African and European origin will continue to be impossible.

With kind regards

Mnyaka Sururu Mboro & Christian Kopp
Berlin Postkolonial
[email protected]
Mobile: 01799 100 976

Further Signatories:

  • AfricAvenir International
  • Antirassistisch-Interkulturelles Informationszentrum ARiC Berlin
  • Arbeitskreis Panafrikanismus München
  • Arca-Afrikanisches Bildungszentrum
  • Artefakte/Anti-Humboldt
  • Berliner Entwicklungspolitischer Ratschlag (BER)
  • Deutsch-Afrikanische Gesellschaft (DAFRIG)
  • FuturAfrik – Forum für Globale Gerechtigkeit
  • Hamburg Postkolonial
  • Initiative Schwarze Menschen in Deutschland (ISD-Bund)
  • IDB | Institut für diskriminierungsfreie Bildung
  • Interkulturelles Frauenzentrum S.U.S.I.
  • Joliba – Interkulturelles Netzwerk in Berlin
  • Köln Postkolonial
  • Mainzer Arbeitskreis Südliches Afrika (MAKSA)
  • Netzwerk Rassismus- und Diskriminierungsfreies Bayern
  • OvaHerero, Mbanderu and Nama Genocides Institute (ONGI)
  • Solidaritätsdienst International (SODI)
  • Southern Networks for Environment and Development (SONED)
  • ...
  • Millicent Adjei (Hamburg)
  • Aischa Ahmed (Berlin)
  • Prof. Dr. Iman Attia (Berlin)
  • Josephine Apraku (Berlin)
  • Prof. Dr. Marianne Bechhaus-Gerst (Köln)
  • Prof. Dr. Heike Becker (Kapstadt/Berlin)
  • Dr. Jule Böhnkost (Berlin)
  • Andreas Bohne (Berlin)
  • Dr. Anna-Maria Brandstetter (Mainz)
  • Clementine Burnley (Berlin)
  • Tahir Della (Berlin)
  • Hamado Dipama (München)
  • Prof. Dr. Lars Eckstein (Potsdam)
  • Ginga Eichler (Berlin)
  • Jahn Georg Fischer (Berlin)
  • Olga Gerstenberger (Berlin)
  • Prof. PhD Lerke Gravenhorst (Ahrensburg)
  • Dr. Noa Ha (Berlin)
  • Adina Hammoud (Berlin)
  • Mareike Heller (Berlin)
  • Dr. Anja Henebury (Zürich)
  • HMJokinen (Hamburg)
  • Dr. Natasha A. Kelly (Berlin)
  • Sonja Knees (Berlin)
  • Prof. Dr. Reinhart Kößler (Berlin)
  • Dr. Brigitta Kuster (Berlin)
  • Lucilla Lepratti (Berlin)
  • Hans-Christian Mahnke (Windhoek)
  • Prof. Dr. Christoph Marx (Duisburg-Essen)
  • Prof. Dr. Henning Melber (Uppsala)
  • Dr. Kavemuii Murangi (Silver Spring)
  • Katharina Oguntoye (Berlin)
  • Sharon Dodua Otoo (Berlin)
  • Prof. Dr. Ciraj Rassool (Kapstadt)
  • Anke Reule (Berlin)
  • Regina Sarreiter (Berlin)
  • Prof. Dr. Albert Scherr (Freiburg)
  • Prof. Dr. Michael Schnegg (Hamburg)
  • Alexander Schudy (Berlin)
  • Eric Van Grassdorf (Berlin)
  • Dr. habil Tilman Schiel (Bayreuth)
  • Sylvia Werther (Berlin)
  • Sigfried Wittig (Berlin)
  • Dr. Joachim Zeller (Berlin)
  • ...

Which team do you think has the higher chance of winning the 2024 elections?

Started: 02-07-2024 | Ends: 31-10-2024