Campaign and debate on a loan of the bust of Nefertiti to Egypt, 2007
Since 1913 the bust of Nefertiti has been in Berlin - and Egypt has been claiming restitution for about the same length of time. The "most famous Berlin lady" is a magnet for the public and the subject of an unresolved dispute. The Egyptian side has protested, threatened, offered other significant cultural assets in exchange and made their most important cultural assets available for exhibitions in Germany. But nothing has been achieved: For the last 95 years Berlin has been insisting that the ownership is legally perfectly clear and pointing out that 'Nefertiti' has long become an integral part of our cultural identity which we are not prepared to part with.
Even allowing the bust to be exhibited in Egypt for a limited period of time is a matter on which the museums responsible in Berlin are obviously not prepared to debate. A request of this nature expressed by the Director of the Egyptian Administration of Antiquities on the occasion of the opening of the exhibition of underwater treasures from Alexandria in the Gropius Building in Berlin in May 2006 has not yet been answered.
The dispute about where Nefertiti's bust should be kept is an example of many unsolved problems arising from the treatment of cultural assets from other countries, many of which reached European museums under rather dubious circumstances. Today they tend to be regarded as part of the country's own cultural possessions, often even as part of the cultural heritage.
Although the European museums are rarely confronted with concrete claims for restitution or requests for loans, most museums refuse to give up their questionable claims to ownership and make the countries a fair offer concerning their significant cultural assets taken from them or lost through theft or in dubious exchange or purchase.
This is the case in Berlin too, where the representatives of the museums and the politicians responsible for cultural politics have refused to discuss the subject or to try to find a solution acceptable to all sides.
In order to resolve this blockade attitude, we regard it as necessary and definitely overdue that the public get involved and discusses how this conflict could be fairly resolved from the German side.
With the campaign 'Nefertiti travels' we were offering a platform for this purpose.
From 11th April to 30th June 2007, the campaign initiated broad media coverage on the case of Nefertiti. Around ten Million people could follow the political events in Germany and Egypt. The intense reactions in Cairo and Berlin show that it is necessary to discuss the conflict seriously and to find solutions which are acceptable to both sides. The debate continues and will go on for the next years.
The camapign’s website documents the campaign activities and materials, the web-discussion and the vote on the case of Nefertiti. News and political events that had been initiated during the campaign were summarized there, too.
To the campaign’s website: