The month of April 2024 marks an important milestone for Africa and Europe: German museums return art objects to Cameroon after illicit exports during the colonial period. The Bangwa people belonging to the South-West zone of the territory have already received several objects and can only rejoice. This is the first step to restore part of the “stolen” past to African countries and, why not, create collaborations and opportunities.

Suffice it to say that in a study conducted by Bénédicte Savoy, art historian, and Albert Gouaffo, cultural historian, it was stated that “Thousands of Cameroonian objects are kept in German museums representing the world's largest and oldest collection of fabrics, weapons and jewelry..

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German museums: repatriation of cultural property

Art has always been a pioneer in overcome discrimination and spread ideas across all social and geographic areas as shown on the presentation site of “La Biennale Arte 2024” which is in its 60th edition. Among stay protagonists that of Cameroon with the exhibition “Nemo Propheta in his native land – no one is a prophet in his country. »

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

It is precisely for this reason that the Cameroonian government, supported by local associations, expressed the desire to recover their assets from German museums. Concretely, 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 cultural heritage African preserved in German museums.

Atlas of absence – the cultural heritage of Cameroon in Germany

On June 2, 2023, the publication of “The Atlas of Absences» written respectively by Bénédicte Savoy and Albert Gouaffo, professors at Technical University from Berlin andUniversity of Dschang in Cameroon.

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

German museums: funds for the provenance of African objects such as Cameroon

France and Germany have early 2024 created a research fund of 2.1 million euros to verify the real provenance of African cultural objects in their national museums. Priority will be given to former French and German colonies such as Togo and Cameroon, as indicated by the Belgian television channel. Euronews.

The fund in question is generated by the Franco-German Center for Research in Social Sciences Marc Bloch hosted by project manager Julie Sissia, who comments as follows: EuronewsThis initiative demonstrates that today cultural collaboration between German, French and African museums is good and works. We are talking about a pilot project which is in an embryonic phase but which can aspire to constant and future collaboration at European level”.

Africa reconnects with its past

The return of art objects arriving from Europe to Cameroon has begun the Cameroonian people are rediscovering their identity.

In particular, the king of the Bangwa people, Fon Fontem Asabaton, expressed “The importance of this gesture has immense value, particularly for our identity. I hope that the restitution process will continue to increasingly enrich our cultural heritage and stimulate new generations”.

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