Germany Repatriates Looted African Artifacts

German cultural officials said that priceless artifacts that were taken from and looted from African countries during Germany’s colonial era will be permanently returned.

The Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation (PCHF) said in separate news releases on Monday that talks had begun on the return of artifacts to Namibia, Tanzania, and Cameroon.

A shell-encrusted statue of the mother goddess Ngonnso, which has special spiritual value to the Nso’ people of northwest Cameroon, was one of the artifacts that must be returned, according to the PCHF

The statue entered the Berlin Ethnological Museum’s collection in 1903 after being “donated” by a German colonial commander who had stolen it from the Nso’ by force.

In a separate news release, members of the Board of Trustees of PCHF also authorized the permanent return of 23 artifacts to Namibia, including jewelry, tools, and clothing. 

The items, which were also taken during the 1884–1919 colonial era, were brought to Namibia last month for study purposes and will now stay there.

The foundation said that its president had also been given permission to sign a document requiring the return of artifacts that Germany had taken from Tanzania during the Maji Maji Rebellion and other conflicts at the beginning of its colonial control of the 20th century.

“We know how important these objects are for Namibia. These are very early pieces, and because of the violent colonization, there are no comparable objects left in Namibia. If we now return these objects permanently, then we support our Namibian partners in reconstructing the history of their country,” Hermann Parzinger, the PCHF president said.

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