Nigeria’s Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie tasks European nations to confront their role in the history of colonial violence and return the art works and objects of spiritual significance stolen from various parts of the continents of Africa, Asia and Latin America.
Adichie said this in an address at the opening of the Humboldt Forum in late September. Her addressed was well-receive by the audience and gained traction on the internet, particularly among her African readers.
The Humboldt Forum, located in Berlin, is a museum of non-European art. Dubbed a German equivalent of the British Museum, it has long drawn criticisms over its possession of forcefully acquired as well as looted art and artifacts from former German colonies in Africa and Asia.
While detailing the atrocities of several European nation in their respective colonies, Adichie called for more discourse around history instead of sustained attempts to bury the past. “All countries have parts of their history that they are not proud of,” she said. “A nation that believes in the rule of law cannot possibly be debating whether to return stolen goods. It just returns them.”
On the question of the inability of African museums to “maintain” the artifacts if returned, a concern often raised by some in objecting to the return of these artifacts, Adichie argues that these claims are lacking in basic logic and are stunningly arrogant. “Since when has the basis of ownership been taking good care of what is owned?” She asks.
She concluded the nearly twenty-minutes long address by charging the Humboldt Forum to live up to its objective, which was creating a world for equal exchange of ideas, a privilege, she insists, that countries from the “less powerful” continents have long been denied.
Watch Adichie’s lecture below and stream the full opening event here.