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Germany returns artifacts taken from 3 African nations

Head of the Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation Hermann Parzinger (L) and Esther Moombolah/Gôagoses from the National Museum of Namibia showed some Namibian art pieces from the collection of the Ethnological Museum in Berlin on May 24, 2022, before 23 parts of the collection traveled to Namibia in the framework of the partnership research project titled "Confronting Colonial Pasts, Envisioning Creative Futures".TOBIAS SCHWARZ/AFP via Getty Images

German officials said Monday that numerous priceless artifacts taken from African nations during colonial times will be permanently returned.

Among the artifacts is a shell-studded statue of the mother goddess Ngonnso, which holds great spiritual significance for the Nso people of northwest Cameroon, the Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation said.

The statue has been part of the collection of Berlin’s Ethnological Museum since 1903, after it was “donated” by a German colonial officer who had taken it from the Nso by force.

There have been many efforts by the Nso to return the artifact, including a Facebook page entitled “@BringBackNgonnso.”

The foundation said its board recommended the statue be returned following lengthy talks between museum representatives and delegations from Cameroon.


The board also approved the permanent return of 23 artifacts, including jewelry, tools, and fashion items to Namibia. The objects, also stolen during the colonial period from 1884 to 1919, were sent to Namibia last month for research purposes and will now remain there.

The foundation said that its president has also been authorized by the board to sign an agreement on the return of objects Germany looted from Tanzania during the Maji Maji Rebellion and other conflicts during the early 20th century colonial rule.