REVISED GUIDELINES ON COLONIAL COLLECTIONS: GERMANY NOT ADVANCED WITH RESTITUTION OF LOOTED AFRICAN ARTEFACTS.
“It is especially difficult to procure an object without at least employing some force. I believe that half of your museum consists of stolen objects.”
Richard Kandt, Resident of the German Empire in Ruanda, wrote in 1897 to Felix von Luschan, Deputy Director of the Ethnology Museum, Berlin. (1)
Readers may recall that we dealt with the German Guidelines for handling collections from colonial contexts both the original German text and its English version. (2) A new revised version of this document has been issued recently. (3) We shall deal very briefly with aspects of the document that seem to us to indicate that despite contributions from foreign scholars, and a bold label on the cover, International Perspective, the Guidelines seem to retain some of the very basic views that we criticised as not conducive to solving the basic problems of restitution of artefacts looted during the colonial regime and the rules seem to reflect largely a German perspective, despite references to French, Dutch sources as well to publications from other States and the inclusion of contributions by foreign scholars. (4)
We read with great interest the contribution by Jürgen Zimmerer entitled ‘ European Colonialism: Political, Economic and Cultural Aspects of Earlier Globalization’ in which he explains the nature of colonialism and mentions some of the exploits of German colonial rule. He defines colonialism as a system of domination between two peoples in which a culturally different minority decides the fundamental questions of life for the majority principally serving the external interests of the rulers, convinced of the superiority of their own culture. In recent times ideological justifications based on alleged superiority of the culture of the rulers have been advanced .(5)
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