African art returns home: German museums an example for Europe

April 2024 marks an important step for Africa and Europe: German museums return art objects to Cameroon after being illegally exported during the colonial period. The Bangwa people belonging to the southwestern region of the territory have already received several items and can only be happy about them. This is the first step to return some of the “stolen” past to African countries and why not, create cooperation and opportunities.

Suffice it to say that in a study conducted by Benedicte Savoy, an art historian, and Albert Gouaff, a cultural historian, it was stated that «Thousands of Cameroonian artifacts are preserved in German museums representing the largest and oldest collection in the world composed of fabrics, weapons and jewelry”.

German museums: repatriation of cultural assets

Art has always been a pioneer overcome discrimination and spread ideas in every social and geographical area as can be seen from the presentation website “La Biennale Arte 2024”, now in its 60th edition. Between it costs the protagonists of that Cameroon with the exhibition «Nemo propheta in his homeland – no one is a prophet in his own country.”

According to data from the Goethe Institute of German Culture «THE91% of art objects arrived in the West between 1884 and 1920 during colonialism. The approximately 25,300 finds in the Linden-Museum in Stuttgart come from Namibia and Cameroon mainly from the hands of soldiers who brought with them whatever they wanted without criteria.”.

It is for this reason that the Cameroonian government, supported by local associations, spoke out desire to reclaim his possessions from German museums. Specifically, one of the processes that opened the dialogue was that of the Inspector General of the Cameroonian Ministry of Arts and Culture, Ngeh Rekia Mbeume, who landed in Germany last January to begin the identification of African cultural heritage preserved in German museums.

Atlas of Absence – Cameroon’s Cultural Heritage in Germany

On June 2, 2023, it was published “Atlas of Absence” wrote professors Bénédicte Savoy and Albert Gouaffo Technische Universität from Berlin and atDzhang University in Cameroon.

Especially, the study concerning German museums was carried out by researchers for two years both nations. The numbers speak for themselves: Germany owns around 40,000 artefacts from Cameroon, including state art collections linked to the capital Yaoundé, including fabrics, musical instruments and ritual masks.

German museums: fund for provenance of African artefacts such as Cameroon

France and Germany have at the beginning of 2024 established a research fund of 2.1 million euros verify the true provenance of African cultural artefacts in their national museums. Priority will be given to former French and German colonies such as Togo and Cameroon, a Belgian television network said. Euronews.

The fund in question is created by the Franco-German Center for Social Science Research Marc Bloch led by project manager Julie Sissia, who comments on this ad Euronews «This initiative shows that cultural cooperation between German, French and African museums is good and working today. We are talking about a pilot project that is in the embryonic stage, but which can aspire to permanent and future cooperation at the European level.”.

Africa is re-embracing its past

The return of art objects coming from Europe to Cameroon has begun The Cameroonian people will rediscover their identity.

In particular, the king of the Bangwa population, Fon Fontem Asa baton, expressed «The meaning of this gesture is of immense value especially for our identity. I hope that the restitution process will continue to enrich our cultural heritage more and more and stimulate new generations”.

Leave a Comment