Nigeria’s Ambassador To Germany, Yusuf Tuggar Commends Germany For Its Support In Restitution Of Stolen And Illegally Trafficked Cultural Properties

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  • Says Cultural Heritage In The Anthropocene Age: An Understanding For The Past In The Present For A Sustainable Future

Nigeria’s Ambassador to Germany, Yusuf Tuggar has said that Germany deserves a singular recognition for its deep understanding and support for Africa’s strong drive towards the restitution of stolen and illegally trafficked cultural properties.

According to Tuggar he said; Germany in so doing, it is re-connecting with history and offering a route to a better future for some of the most pressing issues of our time.

Speaking through a statement he signed said; “We are said to be living today in the Anthropocene age. Human activity has become the dominant force of change in climate and the environment. This stands in contrast to the Stone Age, Bronze Age and Iron Age. These were times when geology, not man, shaped life on earth. There is now, more or less, a broad consensus that our collective activities are doing more harm to our planet than good.”

On gains of returning and restitution of Africa’s looted cultural artefacts, he said; “These items do not stand in isolation. All parties stand to gain from the restitution of Africa’s looted cultural properties. Restitution would spell the re-uniting of the Mind with the Body, of African Culture with African Nature. And this is the key to addressing the existential problems of the Anthropocene age: the degradation of our environment and diminishing bio-diversity.”

The Ambassador stated further that understanding pre-colonial Africa’s relationship with nature can provide some of the answers to climate change, conservation, and sustainable development. It offers a glimpse of an era where consumption was based more on ‘need’ than ‘want’, with minimum waste and maximum efficiency.

“Africa’s cultural heritage is a portal to learn about the past, in the present, in order to save the future. But that portal is best accessed where the heritage was created. It is for the very same reasons that Barlach’s Angel would not evoke the same interpretations in Africa as it would in the Gustrower Dom near Rostock,” he added.

Making reference to African Union 33rd Assembly, he said; “the African Union declared 2021 as the Year of the Arts, Culture & Heritage, stressing their importance towards achieving the Agenda 2063 objectives. Along with the proposed Great Museum of Africa in Algeria, a key intervention for the AU is the Restitution of Cultural Properties & Heritage.

According to the former lawmaker, a lot has been said about the science of industrialisation and the impact it has had on the environment. There has been rather less attention paid to the consequences for the environment of the separation of culture and nature, “In Africa, there was – and, to a degree, still remains – ecological connectivity between humans, plants, animals, rivers, mountains and forests. This gave deeper spiritual meaning to the ways in which Africans lived with the natural environment,” the Ambassador said.

To Tuggar he believes that; “When cultural pieces were created from nature – be they from wood, metals or ivory – there was an element of continuity between culture and nature, between the sentient (living) and the inanimate (non-living). Did this continuity cease to exist in the 16th Century at the moment Man rose to the same level and touched fingers with God in Michelangelo’s fresco- The Creation of Man?”

“Even if it did not, Rene Descartes certainly introduced a dualism in the same century that drew a distinction between mind and matter, between body and soul, at a time when most African cultures did not have a clear separation between man and nature. Europe’s ‘I think, therefore I am’ equivalent in Africa is the Ubuntu: ‘I am because you are; you are because I am.’ The issue here is not to judge which is right or wrong. Both serve a purpose, albeit to different ends.

“The Age of Enlightenment – Aufklarung- took it further by setting clear boundaries between culture and nature, between the human and the living. It goes without saying that The Enlightenment was an era of socio-economic advancement in many societies, driven by the high volume of intellectual and creative output. It ushered in a new Liberal era.

“But it was also an era that tolerated, and in some cases celebrated, racial enslavement, imperial conquest, and colonial rule. It was not until the signing of the Atlantic Charter in 1941 that this ugly side of liberalism was addressed – at least on paper, establishing people’s rights to self-determination, free trade, and freedom from want and fear.

The industrial revolution and colonialism created immense wealth but also immense inequality. It further fueled curiosity and acquisition, leading to the displacement of African cultural properties from the continent. The very objects created out of the harmony of culture and nature were uprooted and held in the realm of Cartesian dualism. Though admired and studied with boundless intellectual curiosity, they remain dead until they are returned to where they were created and belong To mother Africa,” Tuggar said.

 

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