The Minister of Science, Research and Arts of the German State of Baden-Württemberg, Theresia Bauer, as well as State Secretary Petra Olschowski visited Namibia from 26 February to 2 March. The main purpose of the visit was the restitution of the Bible and whip of Namibian national hero Hendrik Witbooi to Namibia. The two artefacts had been taken to Germany during the colonial area in 1902 and have been kept at the Linden Museum in Stuttgart, Baden-Württemberg ever since.
Immediately following her arrival, Minister Bauer met with Namibian Minister of Education, Arts and Culture, Katrina Hanse-Himarwa. Together with her delegation, they accompanied the Witbooi Bible and whip on their way to Gibeon, the historic home of the Witbooi family, where the official hand-over ceremony took place on 28 February. She personally handed over the Bible and whip to the President of the Republic of Namibia, Dr. Hage G. Geingob, who in turn gave them to the elders of the Witbooi family. The elders then handed the artefacts over to Minister Hanse-Himarwa for care and custody by the Ministry.
In her speech during the ceremony, Minister Bauer expressed her remorse and regret for the atrocities committed by German soldiers. With the return of the Bible and whip she wished to honor Hendrik Witbooi as a freedom fighter. She also said: “We are deeply sorry for the injustices of the past and the long delay in the return of the Bible and whip of Hendrik Witbooi. However, we cannot undo the past. Therefore, today should not be the end, but the beginning of a better and united future.”
On her way back to Windhoek, Minister Bauer and members of her delegation together with Hon. Ida Hoffmann and Executive Director Sanet Steenkamp visited Hornkranz, the site of a deadly attack by German colonial troops on the Witboois’ settlement in 1893, during which the artefacts were stolen.
Fostering cultural and scientific cooperation
Minister Bauer was accompanied by a large and high-ranking delegation representing institutions in the fields of research, culture and the arts from Baden-Württemberg. During their stay, they had fruitful meetings with representatives of various Namibian institutions and organisations such as the National Archives of Namibia, the University of Namibia (UNAM), the College of the Arts in Windhoek (COTA), in addition to the Museum Association and the Arts Association of Namibia. Following up on meetings held during the last two years, several projects of collaboration and exchange were agreed upon. They will include joint workshops and visits in both Germany and Namibia involving experts, students and community representatives. The aim is to collaboratively examine museum exhibits and documents of colonial origin, conduct research in the fields of history, heritage and linguistics, and develop educational material. The delegation members were impressed by the commitment of their Namibian partners and are enthusiastic about the upcoming projects under the theme: “Engaging the past, sharing the future.”