Mon. Jul 15th, 2024

Award-winning Nigerian writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche was among those speaking out about the Ngonnso, and the plight of the Nso.

Ms Njobati’s activism was paying off.

A meeting was arranged with her and Hermann Parzinger, president of The Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation, a body that oversees 19 museums and collections including the Humboldt Forum.

During that meeting Ms Njobati handed him a restitution request.

That conversation was especially difficult for Ms Njobati as she had learnt that same day that her grandfather had passed away without seeing the Ngonnso returned.

“When I received the call from my mother, my heart sank into my stomach. I was like, not now, we are this close, just hold on. It just got me really, really broken.”

Despite struggling to come to terms with the loss of her grandfather, Ms Njobati felt compelled to continue her campaign.

In the months to come, things began to slowly shift.

For years, the museum had insisted that the Ngonnso was their legal property but now they issued a statement acknowledging that it was taken under violent circumstances.

It was a step in the right direction.

Ms Njobati was then told that a decision about the Ngonnso was imminent. She flew back to Germany and learnt that after 120 years, the statue was to be finally returned.

A woman and a man standing on some stairs holding a letter
Image caption,Sylvie Vernyuy Njobati was given a letter by Hermann Parzinger from The Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation saying Ngonnso would be returned

For Ms Njobati, the decision was an emotionally charged moment.

“I was like: ‘Finally, this is happening. Not just for me, for the Nso people, for Cameroon, and for all of Africa.’ I cried.”

Looking back, Ms Njobati says her interactions with the German authorities helped shape her campaign.

“It’s a tough discussion for the people we now call the perpetrators, because also these people didn’t commit the crimes themselves. And sometimes, we can be very hard on them.

“I made up my mind that I’m going to approach people as human beings first, and then as the institutions they represent second. And I think that worked really well.”

Although a date is yet to be set, plans are now under way for the Ngonnso to be returned.

Ms Njobati sees this as a personal victory and also a wider one for her country and the continent.

“I think that this is a big win for Cameroon as a whole, because this also lends a hand to other communities that are seeking restitution.”

Ms Njobati says that the campaign to bring the Ngonnso home has not only helped her fulfil her promise to her grandfather but it has also brought her closer to her Nso heritage.

“I feel very fulfilled. I’m able to even find closure with the fact that I lost my grandfather. I feel at peace with myself.”

By Joy

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