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Society

Stolen Soul — Africa's Looted Art

September 3, 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.

https://p.dw.com/p/3htx8

European museums proudly present art and cultural artifacts from all over the world without considering their own complicity in the brutal ways in which the pieces were acquired. They also do not have 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 pieces of art 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? Will the fact that their colonialist collectors had blood on their hands ever be addressed at all? 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?

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