Announced in June, the anticipated return of Ngonnso to Cameroon was received with gladness by many. However, activists are not losing sight on the bigger picture – bringing home the ‘entire package’.
Activists have doubled down on efforts to have foreign nations return artefacts carted away during the colonial era. Among these, are some royal articles taken from the Nso Fondom in Bui division, North West region, lodged in the Linden Museum in Stuttgart, Germany.
In an academic paper, Bulami Edward has again raised the case for the return of not only the Ngonnso statue, but other significant elements as well. The items include the Royal Cap (ntara’), the Royal necklace (sarkinchiy).
Citing the cultural, cultural, religious and administrative procedures, each of these artefacts, he noted, has a significant role to play. “… Isolating an item for restitution is giving the indigenous people false hope. It will be a semblance of instituting a god in a place of worship but withholding the religious regalia and other props involved in the ritual performance of rites to the god,” read a portion of his presentation.
One down, more to go
In June 2022, the Prussian cultural heritage foundation announced it was returning the long taken Ngonnso to Cameroon. The decision was seen as a mile stone in the long fight for the return of the artefact.
Njobati Sylvie, a renowned restitution activist and one of the brains behind the ‘bring back Ngonnso’ campaign termed it a first step in what remains a long journey to have them where they rightfully belong.
Like other activists, she expressed the belief that a lot more remains to be done to put an end to the appropriation of the Ngonnso and other artefacts, all of which are of immense significant value to the Nso people: “This decision is just the first step. There is going to be a negotiation process and it will involve both the Cameroon stakeholders and the German stakeholders. It is within the period when we start having these meetings that we are going to create a timeline. We are going to create a framework for which the restitution is going to happen,” Njobati Sylvie added.
In the same light, Bulami Edward believes “the restitution of Ngonnso’ will be incomplete without the restitution of other artefacts that are complementary in the cultural and spiritual functionality on Ngonnso’”.
In his presentation, he likened the return of Ngonnso’ without these other items, to the Roman Catholic Church Bishop without his pontifical, mitre, pastoral staff (crosier), cathedra, the pectoral cross and the ring. “If we accept that the absence of one of these items will make the Bishop’s regalia incomplete, then we would come closer to understanding and appreciating the necessity for total restitution of the Royal collection from Nso to the rightful owner.”
The Ngonnso and other artefacts were carted from Nso land by the German colonisers in two invasions in June 1902 and November 1905. “Amongst the precious artefacts looted by Houben were: the Royal cap (ntara’), the royal necklace (sarkinchiy), the throne, Ivory and more…” Bulami Edward noted.
– Giyo Ndzi