Africa & Science – Afrika & Wissenschaft – Afrique & Science

Nr. 00265- 9th Jan. 2024 – Weekly Newspaper devoted to Science & Technology in Africa ** Pour la promotion de l'esprit scientifique en Afrique

Africans might be stupid : The tragedy of Nok Sculptures of Nigeria

Nok Sculpture, 6th century BC–6th century AD, Nigeria, Louvre Museum » It is difficult to understand why artefacts newly recovered in Nigeria should be exhibited first in Germany and not in the country where they were discovered. This raises the question for whom the Nok pieces are of relevance. Whose history and culture could this new evidence enrich or clarify? Are the Nigerians the primarily concerned people? What relevance have the Nok pieces to German history or culture? If this arrangement was with the consent of the National Commission of Museums and Monuments (NCMM), it surely must explain to the Nigerian public this optic that puts the German public before the Nigerian public « .

These comments are not from a Nigerian intellectual. The author of these words is Dr. Kwame Opoku from Ghana, a neighboring country of Nigeria.

Indeed, it is not only a matter of science. It is first of all a question of dignity. At the central point of the interrogation is the attention Africans actually pay to the intellectual and spiritual legacy of their ancestors. Have Africans of the 21st century been enough careful regarding the spiritual wealth they have received from their Fathers? When German scientists are more attentive to the spiritual legacy of my Fathers than I am actually, who is to be blamed? The Scientist in search of knowledge and understanding, or the African intellectual mostly involved in the planning of Dombolo – Makossa and Coupé-Décallé Festivals in Paris, New York and Washington?

Facts are just cruel. Nok sculptures are exposed in Frankfurt am Main (Germany), and not in Nigeria. At the same moment, the spiritual wealth of the Bona Mbape people in Duala (Cameroon) is in a museum in Munich (Germany). The African historian and political scientist Prof. Dr. Nkuma Dumbe III is enough active in his struggle for reparation. Nevertheless, the restitution of that very symbolic spiritual legacy of his ancestors remains uncertain. With high probability, it will remain in the German museum for years again. At this point emerges a question of ethics and intellectual honesty: is it morally acceptable for a modern democracy like Germany to adopt such an attitude regarding the spiritual legacy of a partner country?

About Nok sculpture:

« Nok art describes the sculpted ceramic art of northern Nigeria of west Africa between 500 BC and AD 200. The distinctive coil-built terracotta sculptures are of human beings and animals, sometimes life-sized. The Nok people who created the sculptures were agriculturalists who smelted iron and lived in villages on the Jos plateau between the Benue and Niger rivers. « 

Source:, 25 Nov. 2013

On the debatte sourounding the exposition of Nok sculpture in Germany from October to February 2014, read the full article of Dr. Kwame Opoku published in the newspaper

Nok sculpture, male figure with shell on his head, Nigeria, now in, Liebieghaus Sammlungen, Frankfurt, Germany  Photo: Goethe University Frankfurt, Institute for Archaeological » We read with astonishment and anger that recently discovered Nok sculptures are being displayed for the first time ever in Germany and not in Nigeria where they were discovered. An exhibition Nok Origin of African Sculpture, organized by Frankfurt University and Liebieghaus Skulpturensammlung runs from 30 October 2013 to 23 February 2014 and presents over one hundred Nok sculptures recovered by archaeologists from Frankfurt University. (1)

Readers will recall the dispute between Nigerian archaeologists and the German archaeologists excavating in the Nok area, with the Nigerian scholars accusing the German excavation team of stealing Nok pieces by sending them to German … »

Source:, 25 Nov. 2013

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