After months of negotiations, the federal physique that operates the Humboldt Discussion board in Berlin, the Prussian Cultural Heritage Basis (SPK), has introduced that 23 objects housed on the Berlin Ethnological Museum will lastly be returned to Namibia. “We all know how important these objects are for Namibia,” says the SPK president Hermann Parzinger. Jewelry, instruments and style gadgets from are among the many items on account of be repatriated; the Ethnological Museum is housed on the Humboldt Discussion board. The SPK trustees introduced the transfer earlier this week whereas the restitution plan was confirmed earlier this yr.
“If we now return these objects completely, we’ll help our Namibian companions in reconstructing the historical past of their nation,” Parzinger provides. Intense talks with Cameroonian authorities over the previous yr, additionally resulted in an settlement to return a feminine figurine taken from northwestern Cameroon in 1903 by Curt von Pavel, a colonial officer who gave it to the Berlin Ethnological Museum that very same yr. SPK officers additionally say they’ve entered into negotiations with Tanzania concerning the attainable return of artefacts.
Germany’s minister for tradition, Claudia Roth, has spoken of the necessity to “assume on all ranges about how we are able to decolonise our considering,” and to “talk about how we are able to reform the Humboldt Discussion board”. Prime of that checklist was the attainable repatriation of greater than 400 Benin bronzes from the Humboldt Discussion board that had initially been looted by British forces in 1897 after their violent takeover of Benin Metropolis within the former Kingdom of Benin, now Nigeria. Final yr, the board of the Prussian Cultural Heritage Basis permitted the return to Nigeria of artefacts looted by British troops; none have to this point been returned.
Nevertheless, the German authorities introduced that on 1 July the Overseas Minister Annalena Baerbock and Roth will signal a memorandum of understanding with their Nigerian counterparts, Zubairu Dada and Lai Mohammed, which “paves the way in which for the switch of possession of the Benin bronzes”.
In the meantime, the Humboldt Discussion board’s East Wing opens on 16 September. Two rooms of the brand new wing might be devoted to a particular exhibition on the historic Kingdom of Benin which can embody quite a few Benin Bronzes (the precise quantity is at present being negotiated). Though the bronzes stay in Berlin, the museum labels will replicate the change of possession and point out the truth that they’re short-term loans from Nigeria.
The brand new East Wing may also embody a choice of artefacts obtained by the ethnographer Johan Adrian Jacobsen who was commissioned in 1881 by then Ethnologogical Museum of Berlin to collect ethnographic objects and different specimens on a visit to North America and Canada. Though, lots of the objects Jacobsen obtained on his expedition have been bought instantly from indigenous folks, quite a few artefacts, as his personal travelogue revealed, have been faraway from indigenous grave websites.
Earlier than the Humboldt launch, the organisers of the twelfth Berlin Biennale will host From Restitution to Restore, a convention specializing in the way to decolonise arts and tradition and discover the psychological dimensions of the lack of cultural heritage. The biennale convention (10-11 September) will primarily give attention to the African continent and query why the overwhelming majority of precolonial African cultural heritage remains to be being held in European museums.
Chaired by the biennale’s curator, artist Kader Attia, the convention is prone to additional inflame controversy across the museum and the problematic subject of restitution. For Attia, the Humboldt Discussion board incarnates the complexity of the talk on restitution. Talking just lately in an interview with the Exberliner Journal, he mentioned: “So Germany has the best to return to what it had [by rebuilding its historic palaces] however the others [other nations] haven’t received the best to get again their very own heritage? That illustrates very a lot who has the facility and the way a lot the facility to make choices is unbalanced.”