Dialogue meeting: Cameroon and Germany

From January 15 to 17, 2024, an exchange on possible ways of returning cultural assets and sustainable cooperation with Cameroon took place at the Linden-Museum. Under the title “Dialogue Meeting: Cameroon and Germany”, eleven German museums with more than 500 objects from Cameroon in their collections, delegates from the Interministerial Committee for the Repatriation of Illegally Exported Cultural Objects and representatives of traditional royal houses from Cameroon as well as representatives of the federal and state governments came together.

The German side emphasized the historical responsibility and the political concern to make amends for injustices from colonial times. Petra Olschowski, Baden-Württemberg’s Minister of Science and the Arts, said: “The restitution of cultural assets from a colonial context is a key political concern for the Baden-Württemberg state government. We deeply regret the injustice committed – we take historical responsibility for this.”

Rékia Nfunfu Ngeh, head of the Cameroonian delegation, emphasized the importance of dialog in order to strengthen the central role of the state of Cameroon in the restitution process and to present the strategy for the return of cultural property. She said: “The Stuttgart meeting to discuss the return of Cameroonian cultural property has several objectives for the Cameroonian side, namely to reaffirm the central role of the State of Cameroon in the process of the return of cultural property, to present the roadmap with which the Interministerial Committee has been tasked and to present the Cameroonian strategy for the return of cultural property.”

This dialog marks an important first step towards initiating an official exchange between German museums and Cameroon. The Secretary General of the Kulturstiftung der Länder, Prof. Dr. Markus Hilgert, explained: “The restitution of cultural assets that were taken in the course of colonialism is a project of national importance. I am delighted that the museums have taken the initiative for a first major exchange in order to live up to this responsibility.”

Germany is in possession of around 40,000 cultural objects from Cameroon, many of which came to our museums in an unethical manner during German colonial rule. Various traditional communities in Cameroon have long been demanding the return of their cultural assets and have begun talks with individual museums. In October last year, representatives of the newly founded national “Interministerial Committee for the Return of Illegally Exported Cultural Objects” visited the museums in Berlin, Bremen, Munich and Stuttgart for the first time.

In order to facilitate an all-German approach by museums to this issue, the Linden-Museum in Stuttgart, as the custodian of the largest Cameroonian collection in Germany, has taken over the leadership of a museum group that is actively engaging in this dialog and jointly seeking ways of restitution and sustainable cooperation with Cameroon.