Sep 2, 2020
Africa’s colonial overlords brutally stripped it of countless cultural treasures. Now, the fate of these items is being hotly debated in Europe and Africa as well. Some say the pieces should be returned, while others have reservations.
European museums proudly present art and cultural artifacts from all over the world. But until recently, many of them have never considered their own complicity in the brutal ways in which the pieces were acquired. Only slowly are they starting to include the people to whose ancestors these artifacts once belonged in their decisions, although European colonial overlords pillaged and looted them in the first place.
The issue of restitution is taking on a new urgency in Germany, last but not least because of the controversy surrounding Berlin’s Humboldt Forum, which is home to non-European collections. It’s estimated that more than 1.5 million artifacts from all around the world are held in storage at Germany’s ethnological museums. The Linden Museum in Stuttgart alone holds 60 thousand pieces from Africa. How many of them were stolen? And how do museums address the fact that their colonialist collectors had blood on their hands?
This documentary takes an African perspective on some examples, including valuable bronzes from Nigeria, an ornamental prow of a boat from Cameroon, and what is known as the Witbooi Bible from Namibia.
What do the people in the African countries where the pieces originated think about all this? What are the views of researchers, museum directors, artists and curators? What emotions arise when the frequently painful past is stirred up and examined? And how significant is the issue in the context of problems such as poverty, hunger and corruption in former colonies?