Ngonnso’s rightful place is not in Germany nor anywhere in Europe. Just like other priceless artifacts and precious articles from across Africa, they were looted or gotten through unequal power relationships during the colonial era by European countries. Thousands of the items have remained in European museums despite widespread calls for restitution by their legitimate owners from across the African continent. Just a few like the Benin bronzes have gotten a greenlight to be repatriated.

#BringBackNgonnso and how the Nso people fought to get Ngonnso’ back

With a phone in hand and an internet connection, Njobati Sylvie, 31, who identifies herself as of Cameroon’s Nso people, launched the #BringBackNgonnso campaign in May 2021 from the central African nation. The online campaign was conceived due to the need to restrategize and managed by Sylvie’s local organisation, the Sysy House of Fame. It focused on amplifying the voices of the Nso people through multimedia tools that visualise and humanise their plight.

Nso activists
Nso activists

“We used twitter for the German community because they are mostly on Twitter. Because there was also a need to create awareness on the side of Nso people, Cameroonians and Africa as a whole, we focused on Facebook,” she says.

She says that through Twitter, they were also able to get to other stakeholders in Germany. “There has been enough pressure from the people—the German civil society on social media. It was not just about the post but the use of multimedia assets to influence the conversation.”

Njobati Sylvie
Njobati Sylvie

Sylvie’s fierce social media campaign has not gone unnoticed. “The activist, Ms. Sylvie Njobati, and her organisation, the Sysy House of Fame, have done a tremendous job in the fight of bringing back Ngonnso’ from 2014 to present.” This is according to Shey Tadze Adamu, president general of Nso Cultural and Development Association (NSODA.)

Just the beginning of restitution for Cameroon, what next?

For close to three decades ever since Ngonnso’ was discovered, Nso people and well-wishers have considered several options of getting it back home, including outrightly stealing it from the German museum or taking it on loan for a period of time. Also, restitution calls made by the paramount ruler, Nso elite, NSODA, and activists like Sheey Shiynyuy Gad and Joyce Yaya Sah yielded no concrete reactions.

The success of he #BringBackNgonnso campaign shows that social media holds promise for the restitution of Africa’s looted artifacts even as the Nso people are still in search of their fon (traditional ruler’s) royal ritual cap (ntara’) stools, necklaces, among other objects.

The imminent return of Ngonnso’ has been saluted by the Nso community.

“This news as you all know, brings fresh hopes for us as a people, knowing the cultural and socioeconomic calamities as well as the psychosocial impact we have suffered since she was snatched alongside other sacred items during the colonial times to Germany,” Sehm Mbinglo I, traditional ruler of the Nso, says.

A woman stares at a statue

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