Time for Europe to honour our dead - and send their remains home

The South African authorities deserve credit for persisting in the quest to return the remains of Klaas and Trooi Pienaar, which were exhumed from their graves by an Austrian anthropologist Rudolf Poch in 1909 and taken to Vienna - but it is outrageous that they should have had to go to such extraordinary lengths to secure their return.

Delme Cupido's picture

Author

Senior Programme Officer: Indigenous Peoples Rights

May 8th, 2012

The South African authorities deserve credit for persisting in the quest to return the remains of Klaas and Trooi Pienaar, which were exhumed from their graves by an Austrian anthropologist Rudolf Poch in 1909 and taken to Vienna - but it is outrageous that they should have had to go to such extraordinary lengths to secure their return.

All cultures and peoples have, since time immemorial, placed enormous significance on the fitting and dignified treatment of their dead, so there can be no moral, legal or ethical principle which would provide any justification for the recalcitrance shown by European museums and other institutions, which still have the remains of Africans, particularly indigenous people, locked up or on display.

European governments, in particular, should recognize that the failure to honour our dead is an ongoing crime and the only decent response would be for them to proactively engage with our governments, indigenous peoples’ representatives and the descendants of the people stolen and dehumanized in this macabre fashion, in order to begin to bring to a close this dark chapter in the history of humanity.

In light of the refusal by European governments to properly acknowledge, apologise and make reparations for the historic injustices perpetrated against the victims of the colonial enterprise, this is an issue which will continue to resonate for some time.

About the author(s)

Delme is the Indigenous Peoples Rights Senior Programme Officer. Delme was the APM in OSISA’s HIV programme from 2006-2010. Prior to joining OSISA, he was the Coordinator of the AIDS Law Unit of the Legal Assistance Centre, a public interest law centre based in Namibia. Delme was active in the international HIV Treatment Access movement, was a founding trustee of the AIDS Rights Alliance for Southern Africa, a founding member of the International Treatment Preparedness Coalition, the Pan African Treatment Access Movement and the Collaborative Fund for HIV. Delme holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Cape Town, and obtained a bachelor of Laws (LLB) from the University of the Western Cape.

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