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Hendrik Witbooi's Family Bible and Whip


Presentation: 11 December - 17 February 2019

On 28 February the family bible and whip that belonged to the Nama chief Hendrik Witbooi (1834-1905), which were brought into our collection as donations in 1902, will be returned to Namibia by the state of Baden-Wuerttemberg. Until 17 February, both objects will be exhibited in the museum.

In November 2018 Minister-President Winfried Kretschmann stated:

"The question regarding how we deal with cultural goods and other objects that were acquired in the context of colonialism, and subsequently became part of our collections, has become increasingly a point of discussion. This issue is wide-ranging and not just limited to museums. Indeed this issue has become more and more relevant in our society; the reappraisal of the past is always the starting point in order to understand the present. Taking this into account, Baden-Wuerttemberg is aware of its historical responsibility and is ready to take action. Sending an important message and signalling an important step in the process of reconciliation, the "Witbooi-Bible" and the whip that belonged to Hendrik Witbooi will be returned to Namibia."


A personal exchange has been arranged for 28 February in Gibeon, where the Namibian government will be presented with the objects by the Minister of Culture and Art, Theresia Bauer. "At the same time, the restitution of these objects is for us the beginning of a reappraisal of German-Namibian colonial history", explained Minister Bauer.

The return of the bible and whip to Namibia is the first restitution of culturally significant objects from a museum in Baden-Wuerttemberg.

The bible is of immense historical and symbolic importance for Namibia. Hendrik Witbooi was a significant figure during the time of German colonialism, a "Kaptein" and one of the most important chiefs of the Nama tribes. Today he is a national hero in Namibia and honoured by numerous monuments. The family bible, with handwritten comments by Hendrik Witbooi and other family members, was most probably acquired by German colonial troops in 1893 during an assault on Hornkranz, Hendrik Witbooi's headquarters. The attack was carried out with great brutality and many women and children were murdered.