BERLIN: Andreas Guibeb (right), Namibia’s ambassador to Germany, speaks during the press conference.—AFP
BERLIN: Andreas Guibeb (right), Namibia’s ambassador to Germany, speaks during the press conference.—AFP

BERLIN: A German museum said on Friday it would return to Namibia a 15th-century navigation landmark erected by Portuguese explorers, as part of Berlin’s efforts to face up to its colonial past.

“The restitution of the Stone Cross of Cape Cross is a clear signal that we are committed to coming to terms with our colonial past,” said Culture Minister Monika Gruetters.

“For too many decades, the colonial time has been a blind spot in our remembrance culture.” Placed in 1486 on the western coast of what is today Namibia, the Stone Cross was once considered to be such an important navigation marker that it featured on old world maps.

In the 1890s, it was removed from its spot on Cape Cross and brought to Europe by the region’s then German colonial masters.

Since 2006, it has been part of a permanent exhibition of the German Historical Museum in Berlin. But in June 2017, Namibia demanded the restitution of the cross, which stands 3.5 metres (11 feet) high and weighs 1.1 tonnes.

The return of the cross marks a concrete step to make good on Germany’s pledge to accelerate the return of artefacts and human remains from former African colonies.

For Andreas Guibeb, Namibia’s ambassador to Germany, the restitution is “important as a step for us to reconcile with our colonial past and the trail of humiliation and systematic injustice that it left behind.” “Only the confrontation and acceptance of that painful past will liberate us to consciously and confidently confront the future.”

In a column in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, the president of the museum’s foundation, Raphael Gross, noted that the Cross “is one of the very few objects that documents the occupation of the country by the Portuguese”.

Published in Dawn, May 18th, 2019