2024 May 4 – The Namibian: Reconnecting with Returned Cultural Belongings

Namibian report ARCK exhibition returned artefacts cultural belongings National Art Gallery Namibia

“Reconnecting with Returned Cultural Belongings

By Martha Mukaiwa

4 May 2024

Below the bright lights of the National Art Gallery of Namibia (NAGN) there is a calabash once used for defensive spells.

A keeper of culture from the Kavango East calls it by its Rukwangali name and elaborates on its usage.

“Kandjungo is mainly used by traditional healers as a storage box for a concoction infused with luck and charm.”

The small brown gourd bound with a piece of worn leather is one of 23 cultural belongings returned to Namibia from the Ethnological Museum of Berlin in May 2022.

Many more belongings are currently housed below glass in the NAGN’s stark exhibition rooms.

These returned artefacts have in turn inspired art by six featured artists working alongside seven community researchers to rediscover and reignite the cultural significance and indigenous narratives intrinsic to what was taken, looted or lost during Namibia’s German colonial era.

The items are believed to have been acquired between 1860 and 1890, and were part of almost 1 400 cultural belongings in Berlin’s Ethnological Museum’s collection identified as originating in Namibia.





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