“When I now look at the source and history of individual collections and objects in the Übersee-Museum Bremen which I represent here and try to trace back, then I must say that abysses will be opened up; not that the objects were appropriated with violence as in Benin. There are other possibilities of illegal acquisition; there is gentle “force”. I therefore appeal to all museum officials to research the history of their collections; we would then show more understanding for the demands for restitution.”
Andreas Lüderwaltd, Übersee-Museum Bremen, at an International Symposium in 1979 (1)
In our last article we stated that the issue of restitution is, in the final analysis, a political question that should be addressed primarily to political authorities and not museums. We also suggested that President Emmanuel Macron’s success or at least the acceptance of his policy to create within the next five years the conditions for returning African artefacts, is largely because he has political authority to implement his policy. (2)
Ever since Macron’s famous Declaration in Ouagadougou on 28 November 2017, there has been speculation as to what Germans would do, especially as there had been an open letter to the German Chancellor Angela Merkel urging her to take a similar position. (3) There had also been various statements by the President of the Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation, Hermann Parzinger, indicating that German authorities were in no rush to follow French policy. (4)
Could they have defended their rights in German courts?
Surviving Herero returning from Omaheke Desert where they had been driven by German troops after the Battle at Waterberg; two women in front were unable to stand.
The German Federal Minister for Culture, Monica Grütters, has presented a document entitled, Leitfaden zum Umgang mit Sammlungsgut aus kolonialen Kontexten (Guidelines for dealing with artefacts acquired from the colonial contexts) which has been issued by the German Museum Association (Deutsche Museumsbund (DMB). (5)
If analysis of the issue of restitution facing most Western States and museums leads to the conclusion that it is a political matter to be solved by politicians, then the issuance of a document by a museum association that has no political or legal authority to dispose of State property, is clearly not calculated to solve the problem.
The approach of the Guidelines is not focussed on the issue of restitution. Indeed, the title of the document’ Umgang’, ‘handling’, shows clearly a focus, not on restitution but on how to deal with several aspects of the colonial artefacts in German museums. Thus, at the end of 132 pages, there is no clear indication of German policy on the thousands of artefacts, looted or stolen, that are in German museums and depots some of which are being claimed by the original owners. Indeed, it is stated in the foreword to the Guidelines which are not binding and have no legal status, that the text is a first version, to be followed by a second version after discussions and suggestions have been made by both the international and German critics.
It is noticeable that Germans expect experts from the source countries to assist them in developing guidelines for handling looted artefacts that they are unwilling to return. One aim of the Guidelines is said to be to make Germans aware of the sensitive nature of handling certain artefacts. But here the makers of the Guidelines do not seem to show any sensitivity towards experts from other countries by expecting them to assist in developing rules concerning the handling of looted artefacts from colonial contexts. Supposing for example, Russians asked German scholars to contribute to guidelines governing artefacts seized from Germany during the last world war, how would Germans feel?
The text is presented as a tentative attempt to provide guidance for German museums and their officials when faced with questions relating to artefacts acquired from colonial contexts.
We gathered from discussions following the presentation of the Guidelines and comments of the President of the German Association of Museums that the second version of the Guidelines could be in five years’ time, 2023. This implies that for the next decade or so there is no intention to introduce any clear policy concerning looted artefacts.
The Guidelines are also intended to contribute to discussions on colonialism and the German colonial past which, according to the Foreword, have been so far neglected. It seems certain parts of the German elite are now waking up to the need to discuss and examine the colonial past. This comes hundred years after German had lost her colonies and after some two hundred and twenty-one years after Germany’s acquisition of the Benin bronzes.
The colonial past is so present in German life, starting from street names of notorious colonialists such as Adolf Lüderitz, Gustav Nachtigal and Carl Peters, (recently removed after years of campaign in Berlin), colonial products and the continuing colonial or neo- colonial relations with former German colonies, such as Burundi, Cameroon, Togo, Tanzania, and Rwanda. A visit to Berlin, Hamburg or Bremen confirms easily the wealth gained from the colonies as well as the importance of certain German towns in the slave and colonial trade. German youth however has not slept on the colonial past and various non-governmental groups have kept up discussions, requesting removal of street names that remind people of oppressive colonial agents and asking for restitution of looted/stolen artefacts. Indeed, members of Postkolonial Berlin initiated an open letter to Chancellor Merkel to take a position like that of President Macron. German youth, like most European youth, is against acts of oppression of other peoples and are shocked when they learn that their museums are full of looted/stolen artefacts taken with violence from Africa. Practically, all the German youth that I have spoken to in the last twenty years appear to be in favour of returning all looted artefacts or artefacts with dubious histories; they wonder why their elders would steal African artefacts. It seems part of the German elite is now ready to examine the German colonial past, having ignored over the years the desire of their youth and intellectuals. (6)
Encouraging discussion on the colonial past is all very good but when it comes to restitution, the Guidelines, though giving tips on how museum officials may discuss with potential claimants, seem to discourage restitution. It is stated that even though restitution seems to be the focus in the recent press discussions, demands for restitution in the colonial context is exceptional. (7)
No explanations are offered why this is rare even though the press writes a lot about it. Could this be an invention of the press? Did the press invent Queen-Mother Idia of Benin and her Egyptian sister, Nefertiti?
Nefertiti, Egypt, now in Neues Museum, Berlin, Germany
The Guidelines seem to have forgotten that the Egyptians have been asking for the return of Nefertiti since Ludwig Borchardt took her out of Egypt in 1913 with the connivance of the French and the British. (8) Queen-Mother Idia perhaps does not even ring a bell to some of the makers of the Guidelines, even though she has been in Germany longer than her Egyptian sister (9) They may not recall that a Nigerian Minister of Culture went all the way to Berlin to demand the return of the Queen-Mother and other Benin artefacts in Berlin and entitled his speech ‘Berlin Plea for the Return of Nigeria’s Cultural Objects’. (10)
The Guidelines suggest that not every discussion that looks like restitution demand must end in restitution. The museum official must find out what are the real interests and needs of the potential claimers; they may be interested in knowledge, capacity- building, digitalization and even co-operation. The museums are urged to consider alternatives to restitution of the physical object. When faced with any potential demands for restitution, the museum official is advised to look for legal expert and that there can be no restitution without a law to that effect. (11)
This is part of the insidious and insulting propaganda that Africans do not want back our artefacts and that only a few activists, mostly in Europe, are agitating for restitution. No doubt German authorities will be busy finding Africans to say that we do not want our artefacts and are happy to have them in European museums. Did anybody ever meet a people with culture who did not wish to keep their artefacts? (12) This flies in the face of the facts regarding, for example, the demands by Nigerians for the return of the Benin and other artefacts (13) It is not excluded that some African States may have desisted from requesting restitution when a European minister makes it clear to his African counterpart that demands for restitution of artefacts may cause delay or even cancellation of urgent development projects which the European State was to finance totally or partially. Call it blackmail if you like. But this is what happens. When a German Foreign Minister returns from a visit to Tanzania and reports that Tanzania does not wish to discuss restitution, then something must have happened.
Altogether, it does not appear to be obvious to many that true decolonization must involve a substantial transfer or return of looted African artefacts back to the Continent in accordance with uncountable United Nations/UNESCO resolutions urging the return of cultural property to the countries of origin. The Guidelines present restitution as a rare occurrence which must be avoided where possible. No sensitivity is shown that the African peoples need their artefacts to continue their cultural development that was violently interrupted by colonization and the massive transfer of artefacts to the Western world some hundred years ago.
Provenance research as presented in the context of the Guidelines would in most cases work to hinder restitution. Macron requested that conditions be established within the next five years for the restitution of African artefacts. So, restitution is already projected as end result. The German Leitfaden which are in no way binding on anybody and each museum decides as it wishes. They allow the possibility for a museum, after provenance research to inform an African State we have here an object we would like to discuss with you. Attempts are to be made to find what a particular State wants, perhaps, co-operation, information about an object, participation in the presentation of the object and if during discussion, it turns out that particular State wants restitution, then that will be discussed. Germans seem to be convinced that most Africans do not want their artefacts back. No evidence or reason has been advanced to support the German view which goes against all the evidence of the last decades and self-respect. What is also not mentioned in the Guidelines is what to do in the case of objects where there is no need for provenance research for everybody knows where they came from such as the Benin bronzes.
It is noteworthy that at a time when France is busy organizing itself for restitution, Germany issues guidelines for dealing with artefacts from colonies. The title and the whole approach seems inappropriate after Germany has lost its colonies some hundred years ago. It almost sounds as if these artefacts have only recently arrived in Germany. The reason here appears to be that not much provenance research was done in the last decades. There is of course the suspicion that some want to use the excuse of provenance research for delaying restitution altogether. This is not helped by the results of the recent provenance research at the Hamburg Kunst und Gewerbe Museum. After research had shown that three Benin bronzes were indeed part of the loot of 1897, the pieces were not returned to the Oba of Benin but handed over to the Hamburg Ethnology Museum that has already 196 pieces. So, what is the point of the research? There is no guarantee in the non-binding Guidelines that provenance research would lead to restitution if proved that the object was looted.
Some of the contents of the Leitfaden may be good in themselves but they are not directed towards restitution. For example, the parts on colonialism are very good for anyone who wants to understand colonialism but is this what we expect from the German authorities? They have not even drawn the conclusion that because of the violent, illegal and criminal nature of colonialism the looted artefacts must be returned.
A section of the Guidelines devoted to law states explicitly that it is based entirely on European and German views of the law.
Legal discussions on law about acquisition of artefacts should be clearly put in the colonial context of permanent violence and oppression. Readers should not be lulled indirectly into thinking that legal matters in German colonies were like legal matters in present-day Germany. In the face of heavy racist and colonial might, many legal concepts lose their validity and efficacy. Where every German colonialist could beat any adult African with a whip, the provisions of individual rights lose their significance. Nor should one resort to analysis of German private law when dealing with a situation of massive colonialist appropriation or confiscation of African property
Mask ngel, Fang, Gabon, now in Museum Fünf Kontinente, formerly Staatliches Museum für Volkerkunde, Munich, Germany.
When it is said that the statute of limitations Verjährung, may defeat African claims, one must ask, under which conditions the principle of limitations could be legally and legitimately applied in the colonial context of confiscation and misappropriation of African property. This issue has never been properly decided by any judicial body. The principle of limitation is to encourage individuals whose rights have been violated to act promptly as soon as they can. That is, as soon as they have knowledge of the violation of their rights and the whereabouts of their stolen property. Which Africans would dare under colonial
rule to bring an action against a colonial official or any European for tempering
with his rights? More important in the case of looting and stealing of
artefacts even today, in the year 2018, is the fact that most African peoples have
no idea about where their artefacts taken by Europeans are to be found.
We should also remember that apart from breakages during violent acts of
acquisition, many museums also sell or exchange looted artefacts with other
institutions thus making it difficult to trace the whereabouts of a looted artefact.
If Prince Kum’a Ndumbe knows that the tangué (boat prow) looted from his great-grandfather is in Munich, in the Ethnologisches Museum, now Five Continents Museum, this is because Professor Ndumbe went to school in Munich. He also taught at the University in Berlin. Most Africans have no idea what the Belgians, British, Dutch, French and Germans, did with the looted
artefacts. And did anybody tell Africans where all the artefacts were that
European missionaries collected, claiming they were heathen objects which had
To be burnt? The German museums are said to be full of unopened boxes
with artefacts from Africa and none of the officials can tell you about the
thousands of objects in their depots. So how is an African to know this and in
pursuance of a legal action for restitution be faced with a statute of limitation?
Moreover, would an African secure a visa for Germany if the sole ground for the
visit is to look for his looted artefact? ‘Thus, our works of art have a right of
residence at a place where we are forbidden to stay’. Aminata Traore, former
Minister for Culture, Mali
Concerning applicable law on the acquisition of property, I wish the authors had put some emphasis on the national laws of the areas from which artefacts were looted rather than on the law of the State that engineered the violent looting. They could have found out that in some cases, such as in Benin, no European or African could have legally and legitimately acquired Benin artefacts. They belonged solely to the Oba whose person and property were considered sacrosanct. Would any court, European or African, sanction the 1897 looting of the Benin Palace since by 1815, after the devastating Napoleonic despoliations in Europe, the taking of enemy cultural artefacts during war was disapproved. Benin was not even at war with Britain and so the looting in 1897 was simple stealing following aggression, allegedly in retaliation.
The acquisition of Benin artefacts at London auctions by Germans would not have been legal because there was no bona fides or Guten Glauben on the part of Luschan and others who knew the artefacts had been looted three months previously by the British. The detailed legal questions concerning looted Benin artefacts, like most African artefacts, have never been before any court.
Deciding the legality of artefacts looted by colonialists on the basis of colonialist law must lead to some reflection. Would one decide the legality of Nazi-looted artefacts solely on the basis of Nazi-laws? We should remember that German colonial rule was, in many ways, a preparatory school, a Vorschule, for the Nazi regime: racists confiscations, concentration camps, genocide and similar hall-marks of the Nazi-terror regime had been practiced under German colonial rule. (14)
Commemorative head of an Oba, Benin, Nigeria, now in Ethnologisches Museum/Humboldt Forum, Berlin, Germany.
It is doubtful whether many non-jurists would understand the discussion of legal issues in the Guidelines. In any case, restitution or non-restitution would not be based on legal analysis one way or other. Legal analysis can lead to an advice to the political decision- maker. But what should museum workers do with such analysis? Under a regime characterised by violence and injustice, law as such has limited importance and efficacity. This is what museum officials should bear in mind when dealing with looted cultural artefacts. They should also not forget that the purpose of law is to establish norms for maintaining order and justice in order to secure a minimum of morality. Regimes based on racial discrimination and oppression cannot be credited with legality and legitimacy. The main premises of the colonial regime were racial discrimination and violence against those considered inferior by the regime.
Overall, the Guidelines do not offer guidance on the general policy of Germany on the contentious subject of restitution since this is a matter for politicians and not for museum officials. But why then issue such a document? We can only speculate. It may well be that after Macron’s famous declaration of restitution of African artefacts, the German authorities felt they had to do something. Germany being a Federal Republic, Bundesrepublik, the Chancellor cannot act like Macron. Moreover, much of the property in museums and the rights thereof may be vested in other entities, and the Federal Government does not have the authority nor the political will to produce a uniform policy on restitution. Besides, there may not have been enough pressure from African and Asian States to produce such a policy. The Federal Government could have encouraged all the German States to produce or issue similar or uniform policy, but it had other priorities.
Having a museum association that could produce such Guidelines shows at least that there are groups in Germany busy with the issue of restitution whatever the authorities may say about demands for restitution being rare. But this can only secure a short relief from pressure which will increase in 2019 when the French begin to effect restitution of African artefacts at about the same time as the Humboldt Forum would be opening. One way or other, Germany would have to produce a political statement on the question of restitution. The problem will not just go away. The Leitfaden do not constitute such a political statement indicating German policy on restitution of African artefacts. It is clearly no answer to Macron’s Declaration at Ouagadougou on 28 November 2017 and would not have such a resonance as Macron’s statement which filled the hearts of many Africans with the hope for the future. Some of us even thought this was the beginning of a new era in African-European relations, assuming that Germany would also do the reasonable thing and join France.
As we have repeatedly written, Western States have no real alternative but to follow Macron’s policy which is nearer to the word and spirit of dozens of UNESCO/United Nations issued since 1972, urging the return of cultural artefacts to their countries of origin.
It is very difficult to understand how a country that prides itself of its cultural achievements and has spent 600 million Euros to build the Humboldt Forum would want to hang on to looted cultural artefacts of former colonial peoples in Africa that were robbed of their resources, both material and human, by colonialist systems and thereby hindered the further development of their culture. When in 1960 it was decided to establish a National Museum in Benin City, the Nigerians had no examples of Benin bronzes and had to use photos of Benin objects to teach the Benin people about their own culture. (15) The Ethnology Museum of Berlin for instance has more Benin bronzes than the Oba of Benin even though Germans are not part of the Edo cultural group. Macron’s argument that African culture must be highlighted not only in Paris but also in Dakar, Lagos, and Cotonou, cannot be challenged because it is based on observable reality. (16) Anyone who has some knowledge of African art will confirm that the best African artefacts are to be found in London, Paris and Berlin and not in Dakar, Accra or Lagos.
In many ways, contemporary Westerners are proving to be worst than the colonialists. They condemn colonialism and imperialism but are not in any way prepared to return those objects that came to their States through the discredited colonialist systems.
“The restitution of those cultural objects which our museums and collections, directly or indirectly, possess thanks to the colonial system and are now being demanded, must also not be postponed with cheap arguments and tricks.”
Gert v. Paczensky and Herbert Ganslmayr, Nofretete will nach Hause. (17)
Commemorative head of an oba, Benin, Nigeria, now in Dresden Ethnology Museum, Dresden, Germany.
1. “Wenn ich mir jetzt die Herkunft und Geschichte einzelner Sammlungen und Objekte im Übersee-Museum Bremen, für das ich hier spreche, ansehe und versuche zurückzuverfolgen, so muß ich sagen, daß sich dabei Abgründe auftun; nicht daß die Dinge mit Gewalt wie im Falle Benin angeeignet wurden. Es gibt auch andere Möglichkeiten der illegalen Beschaffung, es gibt die „sanfte“ Gewalt. Ich möchte daher an alle Museumsmitarbeiter appellieren, der Geschichte ihrer Sammlungen nachzugehen; dann dürfte auch von unserer Seite mehr Verständnis für Rückgabe-Forderungen aufgebracht werden.“
Translation into English by K. Opoku.
Das Museum und die Dritte Welt, Ed. Hermann Auer, K. G. Sauer, München, New York London, Paris 1981, p.155.
3. Christian Kopp and Sururu Mboro, Open Letter: Restitution of cultural objects and human remains from Africa.
5. Leitfaden zum Umgang mit Sammlungsgut aus kolonialen Kontexten. Leitfaden des Deutschen Museumsbundes: https://www.museumsbund.de/wp-content/uploads/2018/05/dmb-leitfaden-kolonialismus.pdf English and French versions of this publication would be available soon.
AfricAvenir (Hrsg.): No Humboldt 21! Dekoloniale Einwände gegen das Humboldt- Forum ...www.africavenir.org/de/produkt-details/...no-humboldt-21...humboldt.../shop.htm No Humboldt 21! Gegenstimmen zum Humboldt-Forum - YouTube
No Humboldt 21: Deutschland muss menschliche Gebeine und ...
7.‘ Auch wenn das Thema der Rückgabe von Kulturgut in der Diskussion um den Kolonialismus in der Presse sehr stark im Fokus steht, sind Rückgaben aufgrund kolonialer Kontexte bisher die große Ausnahme. Gesuche von Herkunftsstaaten und Herkunftsgesellschaften auf Rückgabe von Kulturgut hat es vereinzelt gegeben, sie sind aber ebenfalls bislang nicht an der Tagesordnung‘
8. See Bénédicte Savoy‘s excellent book, Nofretete - Eine deutsch-französische Affäre, (Böhlau Verlag, Köln, Weimar, Wien, 2011.Dr. Kwame opoku - Did Egyptians Never Ask For The Restitution Of ...
9. Readers may be interested in a comparison I made of the different perceptions of Germans concerning the two African queens. We Will Show You Looted Benin Bronzes but Will Not Give Them Back ...
Nefertiti, the other African queen from Egypt in German captivity, whom the Germans call Nofretete, is regarded as a German, a Berlin lady whereas Idia, the Benin queen-mother from Nigeria, has not achieved the status of a German or Berlinerin even though the Nigerian came to Germany before the Egyptian queen. Idia was sold to the Germans in the same year as she was abducted by the nefarious Punitive Expedition of 1897. Nefertiti came to Germany, through the agency of the German archaeologist, Ludwig Borchardt in 1913. Thus, when Nefertiti arrived in Berlin, Idia had been there already since 1897. So why is Nefertiti a Berlinerin and Idia a foreigner? I suggest the ground could be the skin colour of the two African queens. Nefertiti, although Egyptian, is portrayed as fair skinned and almost a Caucasian. Idia is solidly dark. The features of the Egyptian queen are assimilated to those of Northern Europeans whereas Idia remains an African woman or if you like, a West African.
The merchandizing of the image of Nefertiti has reached extraordinary heights in German long ago. There are no household items, cups, napkins, exercise books, and pencils that do not bear the image of the 'beautiful one'. We have not seen any merchandizing of the image of Idia. You can find bust of Nefertiti in the museum and souvenir shops. Nowhere have I seen the bust of Idia for sale. The merchandizing follows what the museum managers and publicity agents consider appropriate for the vision of beauty. In short, the dark lady is not presented as representing a concept of beauty that the Germans want to project. Tell me there is no racial discrimination here and that the colours and features of the two queens from Africa are not relevant or important in understanding the relationships between Europe and Africa. We may also look at the other Egyptian queen, Tiye, mother-in-law of Nefertiti, who is not given that much publicity and has not been declared a Berlinerin, although both she and Nefertiti came from Amarna, Egypt to Berlin at the same time and are related. Tiya is depicted as having dark complexion and being of Nubian origin. That the skin complexion of the three African queens explains their different reception and perception by Germans can hardly be disputed. Racism in Europe goes far and deep and acts in various circumstances, important and unimportant. The underlying racism in such matters are much stronger than people, especially scholars, are willing to admit.
Infatuation with Nefertiti reached its climax with Adolf Hitler who wanted to build a gigantic museum in Berlin with Nefertiti at the centre of it all. Hitler finally determined that Nefertiti should not be returned to Egypt as his advisers and John Simon, the great benefactor of German museums, especially those in Berlin, were suggesting. As far as I know, most Germans are not even aware of the presence of Queen-Mother Idia in Berlin. Only one German museum director once expressed admiration for the Benin queen-mother. He is not alone. Her people want her back in Benin City who revere her for her historical role in stabilizing and consolidating the Benin Monarchy. (See Iyoba Idia: The Hidden Oba of Benin
Iyoba Idia: The Hidden Oba of Benin ...rainqueensofafrica.com/2012/11/iyoba-idia-the-hidden-oba-of-benin/Sourced: Nakuru Nzegwu. “Iyoba Idia: The Hidden Oba of Benin” JENDA: A Journal of Culture and African Women Studies: Issue 9, 2006.)
Some Europeans have great difficulty to accept that peoples whose artefacts have been detained for a long time by Westerners really want to have them back. This is very well demonstrated by the case of the Benin artefacts. Whilst a Nigerian Culture Minister came all the way to Berlin to demand the return of looted Nigerian artefacts, some were busy creating the illusion that he was not interested in the return of the artefacts. It is the same astonishment that is often displayed when one evokes the eventual return of Nefertiti, Queen-Mother Idia, the Rosetta Stone and other well-known looted artefacts to their countries of origin. It is almost as if many Westerners do not realize that if these iconic objects have been in the West for so long, it is because of the asymmetric power relations between the West and the rest of the world. As soon as there is a change, however in this balance, there will be demands for restitution. It is our weakness that has allowed the West to keep these artefacts and not any recognition of an inherent right of the West to hold our artefacts and dictate what should de done with these objects the West did not produce.
11. Es sollte von Anfang an sensibel vorgegangen werden. Manche Herkunftsgesellschaften möchten gar keine Objekte aus europäischen Museen zurückbekommen, andere haben nur an bestimmten Objektgruppen Interesse, z.B. Objekten mit religiöser Signifikanz, oder die Rückgabe ist innerhalb des möglichen Adressatenkreises umstritten. Zum Teil besteht eher der Wunsch nach Austausch von Wissen, Capacity-Building oder daran, dass Digitalisate von Objekten zur Verfügung gestellt werden, als nach der physischen Rückführung von Objekten.
12. "Dass die Debatte über die Herkunft der Objekte aus aller Welt seit ein, zwei Jahren eine solche Vehemenz einnehmen würde, war lange Zeit so nicht absehbar. Vorangetrieben hat dies eine kleine Gruppe von Aktivisten, welche speziell den Bau des Humboldt Forums und dessen innere Konzeption zum Anlass genommen hat, um den Grundgedanken einer solchen Welt-Sammlung radikal in Frage zu stellen [...]
Parzinger wies diese Attacke mit Verve zurück, warf diesen Aktivisten vor, nichts von dem zur Kenntnis genommen zu haben, was schon bislang an wissenschaftlicher Begleitarbeit und an Aufklärung geleistet worden sei. Die Fachleute aus den Herkunftsländern würden intensiv einbezogen, es gebe eine Reihe gemeinsamer Projekte. Wichtig und richtig sei, hier auf Augenhöhe bei der Erschließung der Objekte zusammenzuarbeiten. Die Frage des Standortes habe sich keineswegs als vorrangig erwiesen."
13. K. Opoku, Nigeria Demands Unconditional Return of Looted Artefacts: A Season ... https://www.modernghana.com/.../nigeria-demands-unconditiona...
https://www.vanguardngr.com › News
14. The Guardian writes the following about German rule in Africa ( Germany moves to atone for 'forgotten genocide' in Namibia | World ...
Jürgen Zimmerer, a historian at Hamburg University and consultant to the new exhibition, argued that “colonial amnesia” had created a warped perspective on later German crimes in the 20th century.
“If you focus only on the 30 years of imperial Germany’s excursions into Africa, then of course the story pales in comparison to the colonial histories of other European nations, such as Britain or Belgium,” Zimmerer said
“But it’s important to see Germany’s history in Africa as continuous with its better-known dark chapters in the 30s and 40s. In Africa, Germany experimented with the criminal methods it later applied during the Third Reich, for example through … the colonisation of eastern and central Europe … There is a trend among the public to view the Nazi period as an aberration of an otherwise enlightened history. But engaging with our colonial history confronts us with a more uncomfortable thesis.”
Recent historical works have highlighted the links between the fate of the Herero and Nama, and that of European Jews. Ideas and techniques that would play a key role in the Holocaust have some of their roots in German atrocities in colonial Africa, researchers argue.
15. Ekpo Eyo: “By the end of the 1960s, the price of Benin works had soared so high that the Federal Government of Nigeria was in no mood to contemplate buying them. When, therefore a National Museum was planned for Benin City in 1968, we were faced with the problem of finding exhibits that would be shown to reflect the position that Benin holds in the world of art history. A few unimportant objects which were kept in the old local authority museum in Benin were transferred to the new museum and a few more objects were brought in from Lagos. Still the museum was ‘empty’. We tried using casts and photographs to fill gaps but the desired effect was unachievable. We therefore thought of making an appeal to the world for loans or return of some works so that Benin might also be to show its own works at least to its own people. We tabled a draft resolution at the General Assembly of the International Council of Museums (ICOM) which met in France in 1968, appealing for donations of one or two pieces from those museums which have large stocks of Benin works. The resolution was modified to make it read like a general appeal for restitution or return and then adopted. When we returned to Nigeria, we circulated the adopted resolution to the embassies and high commissions of countries we know to have large Benin holdings but up till now we have received no reaction from any quarters and the Benin Museum stays ‘empty’.
Ekpo Eyo, Museum, Vol. XXL, no 1, 1979, “Return and Restitution of cultural property”, pp. 18-21, at p.21, Nigeria.
17. “Die Rückgabe jener Kulturschätze, die unsere Museen und Sammlungen direkt oder indirekt dem Kolonialsystem verdanken und die jetzt zurückverlangt werden, sollte ebenfalls nicht mit billigen Argumenten und Tricks hinausgezögert werden”.
Gert v. Paczensky and Herbert Ganslmayr, Nofretete will nach Hause, p.185, C. Bertelsmann, München 1984.