The German Historical Museum in Berlin has announced the return to Namibia of a 15th century artifact known as the Stone Cross of Cape Cross. Namibia has demanded the object’s return since June 2017.
Germany’s State Secretary for Culture and Media, Monika Grütters, admitted that dealing with the country’s colonial legacy in Namibia had been a “blind spot” for Germany for too long.
The restitution, planned for August, was sparked in part by a 2018 symposium the museum held on the history of the object.
The 11 foot, 1.1 ton cross had been placed on Namibia’s coast by Portuguese explorers in 1486 and was seen as a symbol of the country’s colonial past.
It came into Germany’s possession in 1893, when a sailor discovered it and ordered it removed and returned with it to Germany.
The object was presented to Kaiser Wilhelm II, who used it to serve his propaganda purposes regarding the empire’s naval superiority. The Kaiser also ordered a new cross, emblazoned this time with the German imperial eagle and a German inscription, to replace the original.
The object entered the collection of East Germany’s Museum of German History in 1953, and then the German Historical Museum after reunification. It has been part of the museum’s permanent exhibition since 2006.
The museum acknowledged the “outstanding significance which an artifact like this pillar has to the people of Namibia and the special contribution it can make on site in the future to understanding Namibia’s history.”
The artifact was originally erected by explorer Diogo Cao in 1486 on the coastline of present-day Namibia to signify Portuguese territorial claims, as well as serve as a navigational marker.
Namibia, which was previously known as German South-West Africa, was a German colony from 1884 to 1915.
Germany has been slow to fully acknowledge the darkest chapters of its colonial past, but has recently made steps in that direction. Though the German government announced a planned apology for the genocide of tens of thousands of Herero and Nama men, women, and children between 1904 and 1908, it has refused to pay reparations, pointing to the millions that it has given Namibia in development aid over the years.
Source: Global Information Network