Der SpiegelDer Spiegel

Spotlight on Germany's colonial past: When can Ngonnso return home?

By Guido Mingels

23 Jun 2022 · 18 min read

Editor's Note

German colonizers looted a statue called Ngonnso from west-central Africa at the beginning of the 20th century. The statue now sits in a Berlin museum as a tribe from Cameroon pushes for its return.

And here she sits, 5,000 kilometers away from her home, as she has been for the last 120 years. She isn’t particularly conspicuous among the dozens of exhibits in the Cameroon hall of the Ethnological Museum at Berlin's Humboldt Forum. The label somewhat imperiously describes the figure as a "palm wine vessel," since the sculpture, less than a meter in height, is holding a bowl in her lap. Her body is covered with cowrie shells, earrings dangle from her ears and her expression is impassive. She is made of wood.

But Ngonnso, snatched by German colonialists in 1902, is a princess, a deity. She is the ancestral mother and founder of the Nso people.

Sign in to informed

  • Curated articles from premium publishers, ad-free
  • Concise Daily Briefs with quick-read summaries
  • Read, listen, save for later, or enjoy offline
  • Enjoy personalized content