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TWO FRAGMENTS OF THE KINGDOM OF ONDONGA’S POWER STONE RETURN TO NAMIBIA

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THE ONDONGA TRADITIONAL AUTHORITY
in collaboration with:
THE NATIONAL MUSEUM OF NAMIBIA
THE DIRECTORATE OF NATIONAL HERITAGE AND CULTURE PROGRAMMES
IN THE MINISTRY OF EDUCATION, ARTS AND CULTURE
THE MUSEUMS ASSOCIATION OF NAMIBIA
THE MINISTRY OF INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS AND COOPERATION (NAMIBIA)
THE NATIONAL MUSEUM OF FINLAND
THE FINNISH EMBASSY IN NAMIBIA
THE MINISTRY OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS OF FINLAND

PDF Version - TWO FRAGMENT OF THE KINGDOM OF ONDONGA'S POWER STONE RETURN TO NAMIBIA

BACKGROUND

Ndapewoshali Ndahafa Ashipala - Museums Association of Namibia

The Finnish Government has shown sensitivity to the goodwill that can be generated by the repatriation of Namibian museum objects of particular sacred significance. Since Namibian independence two important artefacts have been returned from the Finnish Evangelical Lutheran Mission (FELM) Museum to Namibia. The “Power Stone” (Emanya loMundilo Woshilongo) of the Kingdom of Oukwanyama was returned to the Oukwanyama Traditional Authority in 1995 and in 2014 the stone that was part of the regal symbols (Omiya dhoshilongo) of Ombalanhu was returned to the Ombalanhu Traditional Authority.

In 2015, a delegation from the Museums Association of Namibia, led by the late Dr Jeremy Gale Silvester travelled to Finland and as part of their travels, they visited the Museum of Cultures / the National Museum of Finland in Helsinki. During their visit, the curator, Ms Heli Lahdentausta, provided them with a folder of photographs which contained a mixture of images. Upon further investigation and inquiry, Dr Silvester and the delegation formed the opinion that one of the photographs was of a piece of the Ondonga Power Stone. As a result, the Museums Association of Namibia wrote a report about the stone in the publications and exhibitions titled Museum Collections Make Connections - Finland and Namibia (2015) and Oombale Dhi Ihaka - The Bond That Cannot Be Broken (2019).The publications and mobile exhibitions have resulted in numerous subsequent discussions and articles about the matter.

It is on this basis that the National Museum of Finland and the Finnish Government have contacted the Namibian Government and the Museums Association of Namibia to discuss the future of the fragments of the Ondonga Power Stone. As a result, the Directorate of Heritage and Culture Programmes under the Ministry of Education, Arts and Culture, together with the Museums Association of Namibia, humbly requested an audience with the Ondonga Traditional Authority. A delegation comprising of Mr Boyson Ngondo (Deputy Director, Directorate of Heritage, and Culture Programme), Ms Ndapewoshali Ndahafa Ashipala (Director, Museums Association of Namibia) and Mr Tuuda Haitula (Museum Development Officer, Museums Association of Namibia) met the Ondonga Royal Authority on 15 February 2023.

READ MORE FROM THE MUSEUMS ASSOCIATION OF NAMIBIA
Museum Collections Make Connections - Finland and Namibia (2015)
Oombale Dhi Ihaka - The Bond That Cannot Be Broken (2019

A SHORT DESCRIPTION OF THE ACQUISITION HISTORY AND IDENTIFICATION IN
THE NATIONAL MUSEUM OF FINLAND CONTEXT

Elina Anttila - The National Museum of Finland

On February 16, 1886, Finnish missionary, Rev. Martti Rautanen, together with Swiss botanist and explorer, Dr Hans Schinz, cut off two fragments (hereafter referred to as ‘the fragments’) from the sacred royal Power Stone of the Kingdom of Ondonga in Namibia. The act took place against the law of the Kingdom and without permission from King Kambonde kaMpingana or the Ondonga royal family and without their knowledge.

After Martti Rautanen’s death in 1926, the contents of his study room, which included the fragments in Olukonda were transferred to Finland for the Finnish Missionary Society’s (later the Finnish Evangelical Lutheran Mission, FELM) new ethnographic museum. The Mission Museum was opened in 1931 in Helsinki, and, according to the exhibition catalogue published in 1955, the fragments of the Ondonga Power Stone were put on display. In 2013 the Mission Museum (renamed Kumbukumbu in 2009) was closed down permanently and, in January 2015, the FELM donated the museum’s collections, which included the fragments, to the National Museum of Finland, where they were included in the ethnographic collections (VK).

The National Museum of Finland considers that the fragments belong to the Ondonga Kingdom and that they should be repatriated and restituted owing to international recommendations, museum ethics, the provenance of the fragments, and the fact that they are of special significance to the local community. In October 2022, the proposal of the National Museum of Finland to return the fragments was approved by the special session of the Finnish Heritage Agency.
The smaller of the two fragments exhibited was catalogued with inventory no. 5620 (now VKSLS5620) and the larger one as no. 1040.

However, when the fragments were shifted to the National Museum, the information on the origins and quality of fragment no. 1040 had been lost. It was identified in May 2022 and catalogued anew with inventory no. VKSLS9443. The material analyses executed in September 2022 at the Finnish Museum of Natural History indicated that both fragments originate from the same geological unit which is the Ondonga Power Stone.

PRESS RELEASE

TWO FRAGMENTS OF THE KINGDOM OF ONDONGA POWER STONE RETURN TO NAMIBIA

Fillemon Shuumbwa Nangolo – Omukwaniilwa: Ondonga Traditional Community

On Thursday the 27th of April 2023, the National Museum of Finland will officially hand over the two fragments of the Ondonga Power Stone to the National Museum of Namibia. The handover will be overseen by the Ondonga Traditional Authority/Omukwaniilwa of the Ondonga Kingdom.

Thereafter, the Ondonga Traditional Authority, in collaboration with the Namibian and Finnish partner institutions, will facilitate the process of reintroducing the fragments of the Power Stone to the community, while engaging in the appropriate restitutive processes. Further details regarding the restitutive processes will be communicated in due course.

On behalf of the Ondonga Traditional Authority and in my capacity as the leader of the Ondonga community, I hereby express our heartfelt gratitude for the repatriation of our precious and sacred fragments of the Ondonga Power Stone, that had been robbed from the people of Ondonga many years ago. These fragments of the Ondonga Power Stone are not only valuable to the Ondonga community because of their cultural and historical significance, but because they are part of our identity and heritage as a community.
It is not only enough that we have gratefully accepted the fragments of this important and sacred Stone, but true restitution would also only be achieved once we, as a community, can have the full Power Stone restored to the Ondonga Community. It is in this spirit that I am requesting the National Museum of Finland to recommit itself to assisting our people to recover the remainder, which is the bigger part of Power Stone. The Power Stone represents to our people the ancestral breath of life into our culture and heritage, and the ability for our people to connect to mother earth - the source of life itself. The Power Stone’s full restoration shall reconnect our community to the past and rejuvenate our young people to their cultural heritage.

We appreciate the efforts and commitment shown by the Finnish Government in ensuring that these fragments of the Power Stone were returned to their rightful owners. Your action has demonstrated a great sense of respect, understanding, and support towards our community and culture.

We will be happy to witness the handover of the Power Stone of the Ondonga Community, to the Namibian Government. The appropriate arrangements and time shall be made for the Ondonga Community to receive the Power Stone from the Namibian Government.

Once again, we extend our sincere appreciation for your consideration and assistance in the repatriation of our Power Stone or artefacts. We hope that this will further strengthen our relationship and collaboration in preserving and promoting Ondonga cultural heritage.

CONTACTS

NAMIBIA

Mr. Kangulohi Helmut Angula
Chairperson
The Committee of the Repatriations & Restitution of the Fragments of the Ondonga Power Stone
Email: angulahk@gmail.com
Tel: +264 81 122 2033

Ms. Esther Moombolah-/Gôagoses

Director
Directorate of National Heritage And Culture Programmes Ministry of Education, Arts and Culture
Email: esthermuseum9@gmail.com
Tel: +264 61 293 3052

Mr Tuuda Haitula
Museum Development Officer
Museums Association of Namibia
Email: mdo@museums.com.na
Tel: +264 81 343 6832


FINLAND

Ms Päivi Kukkamäki
Director of Communications
The National Museum of Finland
Email: paivi.kukkamaki@kansallismuseo.fi
Tel: +358 295 336 181

Ms Elina Anttila
Director General
The National Museum of Finland
Email: elina.anttila@kansallismuseo.fi
Tel: +358 295 336 131


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Thursday, 13 June 2024