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American museum closes viewing of Namibian human remains

2019-01-14  Eveline de Klerk

American museum closes viewing of Namibian human remains

SWAKOPMUND - The American Museum of Natural History last week turned down a request week by the Namibian Genocide Association led by Laidlaw Peringanda to inspect and verify the origin of some human remains kept in the
museum. The New York-based museum has at least eight remains of people of southern African descent.

The museum last week confirmed that they have eight remains that are of southern African descent but a graphic
seen by New Era indicates that the remains are of Herero, Damara, San and Khoikhoi people. Chairperson of the
mus eum’s division of anthropology, Dr Laurel Kendall, in an email to Peringanda said the remains are now part of evidence in the ongoing lawsuit against Germany for the 1904 g e n o c i d e  and no viewing will be scheduled in
the meantime as a result.

“As we pursue a path of engagement with the Namibian government and as the lawsuit brought by Herero and Nama representatives progresses, the museum will not be scheduling any further visits to view the remains for the time being,” Kendall explained in the letter to Peringanda. Peringanda believes that the remains are of the victims of
the 1904-08 German colonial genocide and that were stolen by German colonialists at the time under the German
imperial regime.

“As you may know, the museum has received and honoured multiple requests over the last year for information regarding these remains, including requests to view them,” the response read. Kendall further claims that the issues surrounding
the holding of such remains at the museum has become increasingly prominent within the community of Namibians
living in the United States and beyond.

“Hence we are working hard to address those issues. At this time, the museum can provide the information reflected in
the chart … regarding these remains, which we believe is accurate to the best of our current knowledge.”
The remains are believed to be of Damara, Herero, San and Khoikhoi people, adults  and women included.
Kendall said the museum has been in contact with both the United States State Department and the Namibian
Embassy in the United States regarding future actions with respect to the remains.

According to her, the Namibian government officials have in turn requested that a technical team from the Namibian Ministry of Education, Arts, and Culture be dispatched to New York to examine the individuals and associated documentation to verify their true origin. “These remains have also been implicated in a pending lawsuit brought in U.S.

Federal Court here in New York by Herero and Nama representatives against the Federal Republic of Germany
regarding the activities of German colonial authorities from 1885 to 1909 in what is now Namibia. The museum
has in turn received requests in connection with this lawsuit to preserve the remains and related documentation
for the time being,” she said.

2019-01-14  Eveline de Klerk

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