Acclaimed Nigerian author, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie has asked European powers to banish the ghost of their infamous colonial past and return the art and especially spiritual objects, stolen from Africa, Asia, and Latin America still in their possession.
Adichie’s thought-provoking speech at the opening of the Humboldt Forum last week was not only met with enthusiastic applause by the audience in Berlin but also resonated across the world as one of her “best speeches, yet”
Located in the center of Berlin, the Humboldt Forum is a state-of-the-art museum complex that features collections of African, Asian, and other non-European art in a partial replica of a Prussian palace that was demolished by East Germany’s communist government after World War II.
Among the artifacts are the famous Benin Bronzes which were looted from the royal palace of the Kingdom of Benin by a British colonial expedition in 1897. Adichie has called on Germany and other European nations in possession of stolen artifacts to return them.
“Obviously I don’t think everything should be sent back to the countries from which they came. Not everything was stolen but those things that are sacred. Those things for whom people were killed. Those things that have the stain of innocent blood should be returned” she said.
While praising Germany for agreeing to return artifacts from British museums, the author of Half of a Yellow Sun declared that it was the right thing to do.
“All countries have parts of their history that they are not proud of. A nation that believes in the rule of law cannot possibly be debating whether to return stolen goods. It just returns them,” Adichie said.
Adichie also called for more conversations with Europe about restitution of their past since “this discourse is not just about the Humboldt Forum. It is about museums all over Europe, the Vatican, in Britain”.
The Nigerian author also demanded that German schoolchildren learn more of the country’s colonial past. “We can’t change the past but we can change our blindness towards the past,” she said.
Her views were echoed by the German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier who asked Germany to confront its colonial past.
“The injustice committed by Germany during colonial times must concern all of us, the entire society,” said Steinmeier.
“Especially the countries in Africa have lost an immense part of their art through the raids of the Europeans,” he added.