The female figure, known as Ngonnso, will be returned to the kingdom of Nso in northwestern Cameroon. It was taken by colonial officer Kurt von Pavel and donated to the Ethnological Museum in Berlin in 1903.
Take Back Ngonso, a civil society initiative, has been campaigning for the statue’s return for years, as NSO people say they have experienced numerous disasters since the statue was stolen.
“Ngonnso ‘plays a central role for Nso’ as she is considered a mother deity,” the foundation said in a statement.
He added that the artifact was not removed during the war from Kumbo, the capital of the Nso kingdom. However, in Cameroon, Pavel was accompanied by armed soldiers, which would have intimidated the NSO,” the foundation said in a statement.
The foundation also announced that it will return 23 items to Namibia and plans to enter into an agreement to repatriate the items to Tanzania.
Germany, which lost all of its colonial territories after the First World War, was the third largest colonial power after Great Britain and France. However, its colonial past was ignored for decades, with historians and politicians focusing on the legacy of Nazi crimes, including the Holocaust.
But its museums still hold many famous artifacts, such as parts of the Iraqi gates of Babylon, which are on display in Berlin’s Pergamon Museum.
Foundation president Hermann Parzinger said items don’t have to be taken in an unfair context, such as a robbery, to merit repatriation.
“The special — especially spiritual — significance of the object to the society of origin may also justify a return,” Parzinger added.
Mbinglo Gilles Yumo Nyuzevira, Prince of Nso Kingdom, said the news was warmly received in Cameroon.
“After more than 120 years, we can only remain happy because this is the moment to honor the memory and get closer to our ancestral ties with love and togetherness,” Yumo Nyuizewira told Reuters.
“The message is still to reunite spiritually and ancestral wisdom with the mother and founder of this great dynasty,” Yumo Nyuizewira said.