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Return of Witbooi's heirlooms will improve collaboration - German minister

2019-03-04  Emmency Nuukala

Return of Witbooi's heirlooms will improve collaboration - German minister
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GIBEON - Thersia Bauer, the Minister of Science, Research and Arts at  Baden-
Württemberg says Germany wants to build a better partnership and improve collaboration with Namibia, following the return on Thursday of Kaptein Hendrik Witbooi’s bible and whip to his home town Gibeon.

 “It is a sign for our acknowledgement of this complicated and painful common history we have with the colonial past, we acknowledge and assume responsibility,” said the German minister Bauer led a delegation from Germany who returned the artifacts which were kept at Linden Museum in Stuttgart, Germany. The heirlooms
 formed part of a larger collection of about 160 000 objects of which were all very protected by the museum. In 2013, German started searching for some objects of importance, from that moment onwards the history of the objects were examined, “what we found was completely clear that these objects were of Hendrik Witbooi and the massacre that occurred and that was completely clear that the objects were stolen in that context,” said Bauer. 

A legal basis was needed to be created to give the objects back and because they had no example they could follow or work by, they had to create and pave a way. The Parliament of Baden-Württemberg, the State of Baden-Württemberg and also the City Council of Stuttgart had to come together for a very complicated process. 

“We had to talk to the Witbooi family, the Nama representation and also the Namibian government to make clear that this returning is a well-accepted process within the whole society, so it took long but when we found the objects, we were concentrated on the solutions.” 

In the time that the heirlooms  formed part of the Linden Museum collection, only twice have they been exhibited. The history of how the museum came into possession of the bible and whip is not clear.

“We don’t know what happen between the attack and their arrival to the museum, the time between 1893 and 1902 we are still establishing that,” she informed New Era upon inquiry. Other than it being known that in 1902, Wassmansdorf, an Austrian finance politician gifted it to the museum. The museum safe guarded the items, treated them with some chemicals for their long-standing preservation.

Bauer continued, “we want to go further into understanding our colonial history, we want to build on this knowledge, we want to build a better partnership and a better collaboration.” 

For the German government, the returning of the artifacts stand for a new beginning of collaborations in respect to museums, education, to research and that the strong ties that the two countries share historically could be used for a better future.  

Back in Gibeon, Bauer handed over the bible to President Hage Geingob who in turn handed it over to the Witbooi clan elders. With blessing from the elders, the elders entrusted the artifacts to Education, Arts and Culture Minister Katrina Hanse-Himarwa who received it on behalf of the government of Namibia. The bible will be kept at the National Archives in Windhoek and the whip at the National Museum of Namibia for safekeeping. This is up until a time when the Gibeon Heritage Museum is built. 

2019-03-04  Emmency Nuukala

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