A German museum has agreed to loan ancient artifacts looted from the African country of Namibia by the former European colonizer instead of returning them to their true owners.
The Ethnological Museum of Berlin announced on Tuesday that it will send 23 jewels, tools and ancient objects to the National Museum of Namibia to allow local artists and scholars to conduct research on these objects.
Ancient artifacts include a three-headed drinking vessel, a doll in traditional dress, and various spears, hairpieces, and other fashion accessories.
Authorities said the indefinite loan of the artifacts was part of a project to encourage closer ties between the two countries.
The decision opens a new chapter in “the long and complex history of Namibia and the Germans”, Esther Moombolah, director of the National Museum of Namibia, told reporters in Berlin.
Namibians should not “have to fly to see our cultural treasures which are kept in boxes in foreign institutions”, she said. “We urge all future partners to follow suit like this institution.”
The German ethnological museum has 75,000 African objects. In addition to stealing Namibia’s treasures, German colonizers plundered resources and committed genocide in Africa, killing tens of thousands of natives, notably in the massacres of 1904-1908.
Other Western countries, including France, Britain, Belgium, Holland, Italy and Spain, have done the same.
The French Quai Branly Museum has nearly 70,000 ancient African artifacts, the British Museum has 73,000, and the National Museum of World Cultures in the Netherlands has 66,000. Belgium’s Royal Museum for Central Africa has alone 180,000 ancient African objects in its possession, and museums in the United States have 50,000.
In this regard, French President Emmanuel Macron has gone so far as to publicly acknowledge the atrocities committed by French soldiers and police in the history of African states.
He has just become the first French leader to return looted treasures from Africa’s colonial era, returning a dozen artifacts to Benin and a sword to Senegal.
Macron, however, ruled out a formal apology to France’s former African colonies and instead ordered the establishment of expert commissions to dig into historical records.