A group of artifacts from the collection of the Ethnological Museum of the Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation will be brought to Namibia as the conclusion of a transnational research project. The Berlin-based organization worked with the Museums Association of Namibia to determine the history and cultural significance of some 1400 objects.
Of that lot, 23 of the most historically important pieces, including precious jewelry and pottery, will travel back to the Southwest African country for further research. In a statement, the foundation said that while this is not an official return, there are no plans for the artifacts to travel back to Germany.
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The project was funded by the Gerda Henkel Foundation in collaboration with experts from Namibia based in Germany. Per a report in Monopol, the Namibian researchers have worked with the museum since spring 2019 to analyze the artistic and archaeological trove. After arriving in Namibia, contemporary artists will be invited to view the works as sources of discussion and creative inspiration.
The Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation, the German state body which oversees cultural collections in Berlin, has been actively involved in repatriation efforts underway at several European and North American museums.
In February, the foundation oversaw the return of ancestral Hawaiian skeletal remains from the Museum for Pre-and Early History in Berlin to representatives of the Office of Hawaiian Affairs. The remains, called iwi kupuna, were acquired for the museum’s Luschan Collection in 1880 during a colonial expedition. Once returned to Hawaii, they were reburied close to the burial sites from which they were originally stolen.
Last year, the foundation authorized the Berlin State Museums to begin discussion with Nigeria about the return of the Benin Bronzes in their holdings. The foundation said that the prized group of artifacts could be sent back “regardless of the circumstances” by which they were acquired, drastically increasing the success of repatriation claims.
The Benin Bronzes were looted by British troops in 1897 from the Kingdom of Benin, now part of Nigeria, and are dispersed in collections of institutions around the world.