Some time ago, after having prior announced an appointment by telephone, an employee of the State Office of Criminal Investigation
came to our gallery. He wanted to have a chat with me about our Benin bronzes. "You are welcome to come by, but our gallery consists of only one large room and some of our staff will be indirect participants in our conversation." I said.
He is disturbed by two things in the sale of our Benin bronzes, which - in the opinion of the criminal police official - could give rise to a criminal consequence:
1. the TL appraisals of the private analysis institute Kotalla
The banner of the Kotalla Laboratory website
2. our disclaimer according to the Kultur Gut Schutz Gesetz, according to which three years after acquisition, reclaims of the country of origin can be made and furthermore:
This object can be viewed during the auction at Galerie Wolfgang Jaenicke. It will not be shipped and can only be picked up. After the end of the auction, the highest bidder may receive the object for further analysis at his own expense, without materially affecting the object's substance. For this analysis the winner of the auction has a period of 14 days. The object comes from an old African collection. Restitution organizations and persons who deal intensively with restitution issues have been informed about the object. See also Cultural Property Protection Act (KGSG).
According to the UNESCO Convention of 1970, the right to repatriation expires one year after the authorities of a country of origin have learned where and with whom a cultural object is located. Galerie Wolfgang Jaenicke therefore always informed about every newly imported object. Especially about the bronzes from Nigeria shown on this page, which are published on the internet and accessible to everyone. Organizations dealing with restitution matters, but also freelance, state-employed art historians, such as restitution experts like Benedicte Savoy, are regularly informed about objects in the Galerie Wolfgang Jaenicke.
Every buyer of an art object, no matter if it is made of wood, clay or bronze, must be aware of the fact that from a European point of view, traditional African art mostly came with insufficient export papers from the respective African country of origin. The gallery Wolfgang Jaenicke, Berlin, tries to do justice to this dilemma by acting with the greatest possible transparency. The export policy of African states is problematic for art historical research, since African and European dealers usually work in secret due to diffuse legal situations, and important information passed on by the trade to researchers before 1970 tends to be lost.
If you are unsure, please contact the managing director of Jaenicke-Njoya GmbH - Wolfgang Jaenicke. It is in the interest of the gallery to clarify any questionable facts with all available means.
ad 1.) As long as I would attach expert opinions of Institut Kotalla to our sales offers, I would be guilty of complicity in fraud.
ad 2.) Would the reference to the UNESCO agreement and the KGSG law create the impression that we would sell originals.
To which I said to him, "Then arrest Mr. Kotalla. But what do you want from me?"
"We would have done that long ago, too, if this man had had his institute in our jurisdiction.
And by the way...see ad 2.)
"I don't mind if you write that you sell Benin style copies. By that I mean the difference as in baroque furniture and Furniture in the style of Baroque, with the term "in the style of..." is clear that their customer does not buy an original."
"Alright, let's do it this way!"
When the man from the LKA (Landeskriminalamt) had left, I wondered how the man had come to the conclusion that we were dealing with copies here. When I myself, after 25 years of experience, am hardly in a position to decide prima vista what is an original and what is a copy, and I have to rely on scientific analysis,
for which there is only one private institute in Germany, quoted above, he must have obtained his "knowledge" from a third source. What would I do as a "clueless person" to inform myself?
Well, the answer suggests itself: I would ask where I can find expert advice. First of all, I would probably ask Mrs. Plankensteiner, the self-proclaimed top expert for Benin bronzes, "who has absolutely nothing to do with the trade" as she expressed herself several times and who probably knew years ago that in the Benin exhibition of the Galerie Peter Herrmann in Berlin, each object exhibited was only a copy, and therefore she did not think it necessary to have a look at the exhibit. This woman can hardly be surpassed in her mixture of devoutness and ignorance. Submissive when it comes to political interests, which she puts into practice under the cloak of scientifically similar to Mrs. Savoy, and absolutely ignorant when it comes to scientific knowledge. Both women have in common that morality and politics have long since replaced the cognitive process of science. This is a tendency that has long become standard at all levels of politics in recent years, and which, with the instrument of "moral education", has boarded the sovereignty of science on a broad front. Much of this is reminiscent of Carl Schmidt, who, among other things, in his essay on "political theology", placed faith and rhetoric above, and who - like Heidegger - became one of the intellectual pioneers of National Socialism. Socialism cannot be killed: First National Socialism, then Communism, and now Green Socialism; the German penchant for ideologies seems to be immanent.
In 1967 it was still called "Under the gowns muff of thousand years" so the today's picture has changed. It is mostly neat young women, at least in the cultural institutes - now 70 percent female - who have given the socialist mustiness of yesterday a new appearance...
Today it is enough to have some professorial title, even if it is as a quota woman, and again it's about faith and morals, especially in the so-called
"gossip sciences" such as art and cultural history.
I had written three times to Mrs. Plankensteiner, how I could distinguish originals from copies. Three times written and then published as a public letter in a blog. Never got an answer.
On my way to the gallery, I recently met a group of mostly young people in Charlottenburg's Schloßstraße, who at first looked as if they were on their way to a demonstration. In front of them sat an African woman in a baby carriage. An eye-catcher with the inscription "Decoloniale" caught my attention and made me wonder, since it reminded me of a topic I have been struggling with for years.
It was five years ago when Bénédicte Savoy visited me in Schloßstraße, I showed her my collection of Benin bronzes and we talked for 1 1/2 hours about restitution, the Humboldt Forum, colonialism and the international trade in artifacts from Africa. Subsequently, Felicity Bodenstein, now Sorbonne, Paris, visited me at our Lomé, Togo office, then a senior staff member of the Translocation Project at the Technical University. During her visit to Lomé, I introduced her to international traders of Benin bronzes in particular. This gave her an insight into how dealers thought about restitution on the one hand, and on the other hand, how the international trade was structured and what connections existed with leading museums in Africa. Ms. Bodenstein was in Lomé for several days at that time, and I tried to give her as objective an overview as possible. It is true that there was very open talk about the "Tribal Art Traffic", which the largest and probably most important dealer in West Africa described in a similar way as I did. It concerned high-ranking art goods, which were sent without exception with "official permissions" not only from Lomé into all the world. As I had lived in Mali for a long time before, I also gave Bénédicte Savoy an insight into the export permits issued by the National Museum in Bamako, in which everything was declared as "copies" that went to all parts of the world. Among them ritual objects made of wood but also terracotta from the region of Djenne Jeno, Bankoni etc.. Everything was at least in Bamako in the National Museum of Mali carefully photographed and then went as copies declared with official permits out of the country. And without bribery, which might be suspected. Bénédicte Savoy carefully took photos of these documents and was amazed at how low the prices were for these objects, which were officially exported there.
I also showed her various Benin bronzes with the question which of these artifacts were old and which were new. She could not give me an answer, because the verification of the age is still controversial, especially when private analysis institutes made age assessments especially for bronzes according to the TL method. Efforts on our part to ask Mrs. Plankensteiner for help failed, because she "wants to have absolutely nothing to do with the art trade" quote by Felicity Bodenstein. Also proposals on my part were rejected, just Benin bronzes in private collections to include in "Digital Benin". I would have been happy to share my decades of knowledge with the Benin Dialogue Group. This suggestion was judged worthy of consideration. However, it was rejected in the end.
When I drank café with Bénédicte Savoy in the Schloßstr, in front of my Benin bronzes I asked among other things "How did they come then (in connection with their restitution efforts) to the Leibniz price, which is endowed after all with 2.5 million euro (more than twice as much as for the Nobel price)?"
Her answer: "We are just a mafia, sometimes this one and sometimes that one gets it. This time I got it! Afterwards, a member of her scientific staff told her that she considered it an impertinence to make public statements in private. Pardon me, Madame Savoy, you are not a backwoods scientist, but a person who has been supplying the media with your public statements for more than five years now,in which you compare the reactor accident of Tschnobyl with colonialism, which should be protected from its poisonous rays with a "cloak of silence" in analogy to the cement cloak of the exploded reactor.
(To be read in an interview with Jörg Haentzschel of the SZ. The German ambassador in Mali called my blog at that time, among other things over the meeting with Mrs. Savoy kindly value-neutrally and diplomatically "differentiated", he had already communicated before the Minister of State Mrs. Grütters in a letter, how Africans imagine museums, which differ very much from western museums. His experience - at that time still ambassador in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso - I can only confirm. The cultural image that Mrs. Savoy spreads of Africa in Western media did not correspond to reality. They were more projections that fit into her moral concept of colonial guilt, which was the basis of her public relations...this work has nothing to do with science either.
In the meantime, it is becoming increasingly clear what the real background of the cultural reparation of the colonial past was and is a distraction from the present colonial efforts of France. If one listens around in Africa, Macron's Ouagadougou speech more than 5 years ago, which was supposed to initiate a restitution process of reparation, is almost without exception seen as a camouflage of an aged colonial power, which has meanwhile shown the red card almost everywhere in West Africa.
More than 60 years after official independence: the breakaway from the CFA franc. The concrete planning of a gold-backed currency of the three Sahlel countries Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger. States that have shown France the "red card", with enormous gold resources and states that have suffered and still suffer from French colonial power until the recent past.
But back to the "Decolonial Festivals 2023", whose activists I happened to meet on Charlottenburg's Schloßstraße as one made a pilgrimage from one colonial hotspot to another in Berlin. On the last day of the three-day event, a resumé with panel discussion was to take place at Ernst Reuter Platz. Hotspots like why the Nachtigalplatz was decolonized into Manga Bell Platz and similar enterprises have long ceased to interest me. This western deprogramming does not correspond to the real life in Togo. There, the Germans are still revered in many regions as in a museum of local history in the north of the country and as with a living German language in the third generation. I am always trying to counteract this "German enthusiasm" somewhat, whether in Cameroon or in Togo. Germany's "luck" was the fact that we lost our colonies in 1918. I don't want to know what Germany would have looked like as a colonial power under the swastika. The bloody Ashanti Wars and the Colonial Museum in Kumasi in Ghana provide a testimony that could have rivaled any concentration camp. One might speak of the "grace of late birth" by analogy with the well-known phrase "the grace of early loss."
But what distinguishes Bénédicte Savoy "We are just a mafia..." from the event of the "Decoloniale". My answer: nothing! It is the consequent continuation of a tendency that tries to exclude history from the present. "We are historians and not political scientists!" If one were to describe the present as it is, the colonial great-grandfathers would be rather Sunday school students measured against a continent that is literally on fire due to colonial present interests. Almost daily I receive messages that I should come back to Africa quite soon to buy art and to help the plight of the population, which has been living from the export of cultural goods and handicrafts for well over a hundred years.
It is no coincidence that basically all national museums in Africa are trying to sell something to the West in some way. When I recently wanted to export alleged Dogon stone figures from Mali to Berlin, the new director told me: "If I let them get away with this, I'll get a call tomorrow from Tervuren, Belgium, that we don't protect our cultural goods here!" True enough, but in this case it was actually Dogon fakes produced in the Crossriver area of Nigeria. The new director in Bamako simply had no idea, which is understandable considering the professionalism with which copies are also produced in Africa.
But what exactly did Madame Savoy mean when she spoke of a "mafia" which has given her so much money and which she has probably hardly put in her own pocket in full, could put in her own pocket, because people are watching her fingers, too. It is an "academic mafia", now predominantly staffed by women in cultural institutes, who live exclusively on public money and who can do almost anything if it only suits political interests. A saber or a bible from colonial times, which was the weapon of the Africans in the African struggle for freedom against colonialism, is restituted and at the same time a contract is signed for the delivery of millions of dollars in weapons. What is this cosmetic of a present colonial policy? And what are these words of Madame Savoy: "She wouldn't understand why the Germans are so into guilt, in France she would never have such success."
When I asked Ms. Alazard of Decolonial Management when there would be an opportunity for "questions and answers" today in this multi-hour panel event, she replied, "These are panel events, there will be no "questions and answers" here. "All right!" said I. "Then I'll go write a blog."
On the way home, I thought about how enriching it might have been to have people come to my gallery on their way from one colonial hotspot in Berlin to another. I could have shown them my Benin bronzes and other artworks from Africa - as Madame Savoy once did - and the stories of their acquisition, could have explained how complex colonialism is today. But whenever I address the present, "it's over". We are historians, ethnologists, (who have never been in Africa for a longer time) or what else academic mercenaries of an abstruse neo-colonialism, who have exchanged morals for science and are basically to be settled in the tradition of "missionary prayer sisters of the 19th century", who instead of Christian religion now want to export western, cultural values in the form of western museum concepts to Africa.
Yesterday I was surprised that all of the 50 or so business cards that were displayed at the entrance door of our gallery in a small plastic box for interested people to take with them had disappeared from one day to the next. When I then opened our mailbox, I received the explanation for the sudden disappearance of the business cards. Together with the Decolonial Festival poster, the cards had been torn to pieces and stuffed into our mailbox with other trash from the advertising rack in the hallway. So this was another answer to my question about a dialogue with the Dekoloniale management. So this time not only in authoritarian verbal form - "No questions and answers here" - but in the form of damage to property. Already days before our shop window pane had been smeared with the words: "Make Euro with colonialism". Thank you Mrs. Savoy: So these are the consequences of your "Mafia self-performance". When it comes to the foot soldiers of their apologists, things get a bit more concrete.
Does that remind us of anything?
Before the "Reich Crystal Night," Jewish stores were smeared with discriminatory slogans and people practiced property damage before shop windows were broken all over the place in the fall of 1936. The portent of violent tendencies also had its ideological forerunners at that time, whose statements were not taken seriously even then. "She only told them about the "Mafia" in private. How can you quote something like that publicly!"
One may accuse me of being a 68 ager, who is all too quick to make analogies to Germany's brown past. "What you write is devastating, especially Savoy's statement about the Mafia." is what the emeritus ethnologist Brigitta Hauser-Schäublin called it when I told her about the event surrounding the Mafia quote. It is - to put it mildly - a departure from a culture of dialogue. An absolute no-go in the scientific context, which has long since been replaced by a morality tending towards violence. Leibniz himself would probably never have received the prize that now bears his name. Probably he would turn in his grave from the way his name was misused.
Madame Savoy reimt wirklich gut.
Kein Wunder als eine Frau von Geist.
Doch zieht sie wie sich nun erweist,
Ideen von Gestern aus dem Hut.
Madame Savoy rhymes really well.
No wonder, as a woman of spirit.
But as it now turns out,
she pulls ideas of yesterday out of her hat.
And this could not be described better than with the word "Postcolonialism".
The occupation with colonialism finally needs a sovereign scientific reappraisal, apart from a moralistic black/white representation in the fairway of present, very current political interests.
Colonialism in its most negative form did not only exist yesterday, but it takes place in the present. To ignore this is to ignore the omen that we face today and from which Africa suffers today perhaps even more than it did yesterday.
There were horrible events in the colonial past, which must be clearly named. But there was also a mutual encounter at eye level that reaches into the present and resonates today. Suppressing them is just as wrong as keeping silent about colonial encroachments and exploitations. We finally need a less ideological image of Africa than Ms. Savoy and her apologists from the Deconloniale Festival would have us believe.
But isn't the trading of copies already a punishable offense because it is "cultural appropriation"? The former director, Prof. Viola König, of the Ethnological Museum in Berlin, now known as the Humboldt Forum, knows the answer: “You would simply have to ban everything from Africa, regardless of whether it is a copy or an original.” Hard to believe - but the former director said this quote.
"What would Mr. Kotalla, with his analytical laboratory that has existed for decades, say about being accused of fraud?"
"He would laugh" said my neighbor and colleague Peter Herrmann in Lomé.
So let's not forget the laughter at this peasant theater: "Making Euro with Colonialism."
But isn't the trading of copies already a punishable offense because it is "cultural appropriation"? The former director, Viola König, of the Ethnological Museum in Berlin, now known as the Humboldt Forum, knows the answer: “You must simply have to ban everything from Africa, regardless of whether it is a copy or an original.” Hard to believe - but the director of one of the famoust Ethnological Museums in the West said this quote.
This woman is not interested in the fact that thousands of families in Africa who produce artefacts would lose their livelihood as a result.
It shows what really lies behind the facade of cultural protection and respect for other cultures: "Nothing but arrogance, indifference and paternalism”
Further and in larger context/ ..the implementation body for socio-political wishes.
Die deutsche Universität ist schlechter als ihr Ruf. Fast zweihundert Jahre lang, von ihrer Neubegründung zu Beginn des 19. Jahrhunderts bis zum Ende des 20. Jahrhunderts, hat sie sich ein enormes Renommee erworben, das sie um die Jahrtausendwende innerhalb weniger Jahrzehnte verspielt hat. Der globale Trend zur akademischen Massenbildung führte seit den 1960er Jahren zu einem umfangreichen Ausbau und zur organisatorischen Umgestaltung der Hochschulen. Damit wurde der Weg bereitet für die Transformation der Universität von einer Stätte autonomer Forschung und Lehre zum Ausführungsorgan gesellschaftspolitischer Wunschvorstellungen.