This Wednesday (December 16), the Humboldt Forum Museum in Berlin finally opened, and a new member was added to the famous Museum Island in Berlin. Since Germany has implemented a strict lockdown order from Wednesday, the opening ceremony of the museum was held online.
The opening of the museum can be described as twists and turns. Previously, due to construction progress issues, the opening time was postponed from September 2019 to the fall of 2020. Earlier this year, due to the outbreak of the new crown epidemic, German Minister of Culture Monika Grütters said in a media interview that he could not confirm that the fall could be made. Successfully opened. In early April, the museum site was hit by a sudden fire. The explosion of natural gas cylinders caused the building materials and the asphalt boiler to catch fire. Fortunately, the building itself was not damaged.
The most important European museum
For Berlin and even Germany, the official opening of the Humboldt Forum Museum is of great significance. Its construction cost more than 677 million euros, and it contains nearly 20,000 cultural relics. It has been called “Europe’s most important museum project.” It will be the sixth museum on Berlin’s “Museum Island” and is also called “Germany’s national card” by Monica Grütters.
The museum is named after the 19th-century German explorer and naturalist Alexander von Humboldt, and his brother Wilhelm von Humboldt who co-founded the Humboldt University in Berlin, to commemorate their reform and modernization of Prussia Contribution. The official website of the museum states, “The Humboldt Forum Museum focuses on all the complicated history and culture in the world”, and it strives to “tell human stories from multiple angles”.
However, the names of the Humboldt brothers also remind people of the German colonial period in the 19th century. The museum’s main collections and collections are cultural relics from Africa, Asia, and Oceania outside of Germany, which were mainly acquired by colonists and expeditions at the time in German colonies.
Germany’s overseas colonies are mainly in Africa, mainly including German Togoland (now Ghana and Togo), German Cameroon, German East Africa (now Rwanda, Burundi, Tanzania, etc.), and German Southwestern Africa (now Namibia). In addition, many overseas expeditions in Germany have also joined the plunder of cultural relics in underdeveloped areas. The more famous is the large number of Kizil cave paintings stolen by the German expeditions in Xinjiang in the early 20th century.
For this reason, the establishment of the Humboldt Forum Museum has also attracted widespread controversy. Although the BBC said in a report that the new Humboldt Forum should showcase the global culture and become a symbol of tolerance and diversity in a reunified Germany.
The main collections of the museum come from the Berlin Asian Art Museum (Kizil Caves are mainly collected here), Humboldt University, Berlin City Museum, and the Museum of Ethnology. According to the official website, “these cultural relics came to Berlin through a network of merchants, collectors, colonial officials, and others.”
According to Paola Ivanov, curator of the Humboldt Forum’s African Collection, the Museum of Ethnology had only 3,361 African collections before Germany took part in the colonial looting. By the end of the colonial era, this number had soared to about 50,000.
The most controversial among the museum collections is a batch of bronzes from Benin that were originally in the Berlin Museum of Ethnology.
The Kingdom of Benin is located in what is now southern Nigeria. In 1897, the British army invaded Benin City and plundered thousands of works of art, including bronzes and ivory carvings, from the palace. Later, these works of art disappeared in various European countries.
Since the 1960s, the Nigerian government has been committed to the return of these cultural relics. Under continuous appeal, the “Benin Dialogue Group” was formed by major European museums including the British Museum to seek a solution to this problem. In 2018, the team agreed to temporarily return a batch of the most representative works to support the Royal Museum of Benin, Nigeria, which will open in 2021.
In March 2020, following the recourse of members of the Royal Family of Benin, the British Museum of Bristol agreed to return a bronze in its collection.
The Benin bronzes in the Humboldt Forum Museum belong to this batch of cultural relics, about 180 pieces. The Nigerian ambassador to Germany, Yusuf Tugal, has appealed to the German government to return these artifacts. He said that on December 9, he had written “an official letter” to Grütters and Merkel, but did not receive a reply.
In response to this, a spokesperson for the Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation, which manages the Berlin Public Museum, stated that “no formal return request (from Nigeria) has been received”.
The famous French art historian Benedicte Savoy is an expert on looted artworks and was a member of the Humboldt Forum International Expert Panel. In 2017, only two years after joining the group, she left the group, partly because for her, the research on the sources of the works planned to be exhibited was too slow.
She told the German Süddeutsche Zeitung at the time: “I want to know how much blood has dripped on a piece of art.” She also said: “If this research is not completed, neither the Humboldt Forum nor the Museum of Ethnology should be opened. “
However, it was not until the end of 2019 that the museum added four full-time provenance research positions in its ethnology and Asian collection departments. These four individuals are responsible for tracing the source of thousands of works of art.
Once a colonial palace, now a museum
Ironically, the location of the Humboldt Forum Museum is also a building related to German colonial history. The predecessor of the building is the Berlin City Palace, which was once the palace of the Kingdom of Prussia and the palace of the German Empire. The German emperor who was the initiator and enjoyer of the colonial war once lived here.
At the end of World War II, the palace was bombed and later rebuilt by the East German government as the Palace of the Republic. It was later demolished due to carcinogenic problems caused by the use of a large amount of asbestos in the building. In 2013, the Humboldt Forum Museum was rebuilt here, and three of the façades restored the magnificent Baroque style of the city palace.
A Tanzanian living in Berlin, Mnyaka Mboro, told National Geographic magazine: “As Africans, we are asking – what do they want to show us when they rebuild this colonial palace? Do they want to show us that they are still in power?” He opposed the construction of the Humboldt Forum Museum. “I used to work in the basement of the Museum of Ethnology. You will find there are thousands of cultural relics that were taken during the colonial era. We Africans want to get them back.”
Officials are also responding to these controversies. Berlin Mayor Michael Mueller stated at the opening ceremony on Wednesday that the Humboldt Forum will be “a place to reflect on our history and our place in the world”.
Grütters told Deutsche Welle, “In fact,…the controversy over the colonial background is very good, and the Humboldt Forum Museum has also made some preparations. From what I know, I am very confident that I can survive this difficult Find a new entry point on the topic.”
As one of the most fierce critics of the Humboldt Forum Museum, Savoy expects that the Humboldt Forum Museum can make issues public and take controversies seriously. If so, she still believes in the museum’s “great potential.”
The UK will restrict the promotion of junk food since April 2022
The British government stated on the 28th that in response to public health issues, from April 2022, the government will prohibit restaurants from launching “buy one get one free” activities for high-fat, high-salt foods and sugary beverages, and restrict shops from targeting such foods promotion.
According to a Reuters report on the 28th, the British government stated on the same day that obesity is one of the public health problems faced by the UK for a long time. According to statistics, nearly two-thirds of adults in the UK are overweight, and one-third of primary school graduates face overweight or obesity problems. To solve this problem, the British government decided to ban restaurants from launching “buy one get one free” promotions for junk foods such as high-fat, high-salt foods, and sugary beverages from April 2022. In addition, stores will not be allowed to promote such products at checkout counters, entrances, and aisles.
In response, British Health and Social Security official Joe Churchill said, “We are introducing a series of measures to ensure that people can make healthy choices. Creating an environment that helps people eat healthy food more often will improve their health is of the utmost importance.”
The British government issued a new policy to deal with obesity in July this year, and for the first time proposed to implement measures such as restricting junk food advertising and promotional activities to reduce the domestic obesity rate. According to previous reports, British Prime Minister Johnson has criticized the taxation of junk food and said that he himself has a “liberal” attitude on reducing obesity. But after he contracted new coronary pneumonia and entered the intensive care unit for a while, his attitude towards obesity changed, and he began to control his weight and support the government’s restrictions on junk food.
Chinese photographer shoot video of a bolide fireball meteor
The photographer squatted in the field at -40℃ and photographed “bolide fireball meteor”, which is the first time in China.
The Gemini meteor shower in the early morning of December 14 made many photography enthusiasts aim their lens at the starry sky and chose a good location for shooting. At 1:30 in the morning, a “crazy photographer” from Beijing, China, took pictures in China. The peculiar phenomenon of the rare bolide “Bolide”.
In the video, I saw a huge green meteor falling from the sky at an almost vertical angle, illuminating half of the sky in front of me. What’s more peculiar is that the light emitted by the burning meteor forms a halo around it, similar to the usual “solar halo” phenomenon. This spectacle caused by the bolide is the first time in Chinese records.
The photographer Niu Gan, who was squatting in Inner Mongolia, where the temperature was over 30 degrees Celsius below minus 30 degrees Celsius, photographed this phenomenon. He said that he can only describe this phenomenon by luck.
New Zealand’s climate emergency declaration was criticized by Thunberg, Prime Minister Ardern responded
On December 13th, Swedish environmental girl Thunberg criticized New Zealand’s recent climate emergency declaration on social media, suggesting that its name does not fit the truth. New Zealand Prime Minister Ardern refuted this statement on the 14th, saying that the government’s environmental protection efforts may be more than Thunberg knows.
New Zealand Prime Minister Ardern declared the country into a “climate emergency” on the 2nd, and the Parliament voted to pass the symbolic climate emergency declaration. Ardern will require government departments to purchase electric or hybrid vehicles, will reduce the number of government vehicles by 20%, and said that it will achieve the goal of a “carbon neutral government” in 2025. In this regard, Thunberg tweeted: “In other words, the Government has just committed to reducing less than 1 percent of the country’s emissions by 2025”.
"In other words, the Government has just committed to reducing less than 1 percent of the country's emissions by 2025".— Greta Thunberg (@GretaThunberg) December 13, 2020
Text explaining New Zealand's so-called climate emergency declaration. This is of course nothing unique to any nation. #FightFor1Point5https://t.co/Yp8nuek9Pn
In response to Thunberg’s criticism, Ardern told the media on the 14th that she thanked Thunberg for her contribution to climate discussions, but New Zealand’s emergency climate declaration only covered part of the country’s climate change goals. “If this is all we have to do, it should be criticized, but this is clearly not.” However, Ardern added that it is a good thing that someone continues to urge all parties to take action to achieve their goals.
According to the “Guardian” report, climate issues have always been the focus of the New Zealand government. Ardern once referred to the climate crisis as the “non-nuclear crisis” of her generation and made solving the climate problem the government’s top priority. However, many environmental experts believe that what New Zealand has done is far from enough and lacks practical action.