Namibia calls for repatriation of historical artefacts from Europe

The Finnish government has been very committed and returned similar stones to the Oukwanyama and Ombalantu kingdoms

Namibia’s Vice President, Nangolo Mbumba has expressed his desire to repatriate Namibian artefacts in foreign museums collected during pre-colonial times, back to the country.

Mbumba made this statement during the launch of a historical catalogue and mobile museum exhibition titled “Oombhale Dhiihaka” at Nehale Secondary School in Namibia’s Northern city, Onayena.

The Oombhale Dhiihaka, meaning “a bond that cannot be broken”, exhibition and catalogue, tells the story of a piece of the Emanya Lyoshilongo Shandoga – the ‘Power Stone’ of the Ondonga Kingdom.

The Kingdom’s Power Stone itself, is still in existence and currently archived, but not displayed at Kumbukumbu Museum of the Finnish Evangelical Lutheran Mission (FELM) in Helsinki, Finland. FELM is a museum that presents collections acquired by Finnish missionaries mainly from Africa and Asia.

“The Finnish government has been very committed and returned similar stones to the Oukwanyama and Ombalantu kingdoms. I hope that the information contained in this exhibition will also encourage the return of the Power Stone of the Ondonga Kingdom to Namibia”, Mbumba says.

Since Namibia’s independence from Germany in 1990, two major artefacts have been returned from Finland. The ‘Power Stone’ of the Kingdom of Oukwanyama was returned to Namibia’s Kwanyama traditional authority in 1990.

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In 2014, a sacred stone which formed part of the Ombalantu symbols was returned to the Mhalantu Traditional Authority. The stones were sacred objects and it is culturally believed that if they were removed or damaged, great misfortune would strike the kingdom.

“It is important that we develop museums in the regions which can provide permanent homes for such cultural artefacts, to serve as educational resources and provide places filled with memories and stories to inspire Namibians.” Mumba expressed.

The historical catalogue’s launch is set to serve as a historical resource book for pupils. It is based on photographs of 127 artefacts that were collected by the Finnish missionary, Martti Rautanen over a hundred years ago from the Ondonga community.

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To compliment this catalogue and exhibition, the Museums Authority of Namibia, in collaboration with the National Museum Association of Finland, will donate 940 educational resource materials to the Ministry of Education, Arts and Culture for secondary school libraries, says education deputy minister, Anna Nghipondoka.

European Union ambassador, Jana Hybaskova, says the artefacts collected by the Finnish missionaries create a strong cultural bond for both communities and commended the Namibian government for investing in the development culture, as opposed to diverting government budgets towards political conflicts.

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