- Feb 28, 2009
Courtesy of William Holland
African-American genealogist William Holland, dressed in traditional garb, shows off the ceremonial masks he bought on eBay. He plans to return the masks to the tribes from whence they came during a trip to Cameroon.By Alan Boyle, Science Editor, NBC News
When family researcher William Holland flies back to his ancestral homeland in Cameroon next week, he'll be bearing gifts: ceremonial masks that were taken out of Africa decades ago, purchased by Holland in online auctions, and now destined to be returned to the tribes from whence they came.
"You're always supposed to give back," Holland said. "Even if you have nothing, at least try to give something to somebody so they can move ahead, even if it's something as simple as a book. Now I'm able to do what's right and return these items that were stolen...."
....Holland has spent more than a decade fleshing out his ancestral connections. He's used documents, DNA tests and extensive interviews to trace his family back through the slave era in the South, back to Cameroon in West Africa, and maybe even back to Syria in ancient times. He's learned how people from Cameroon's Oku clan were kidnapped by slave traders in the 1700s, rounded up and sent to America. Those were the people who passed down their genetic heritage to Holland.
Now he's giving back, thanks in part to eBay.
The Atlanta businessman's project began when he learned about a statue of Ngonsso, the founder of Cameroon's Nso dynasty, which was taken from the country in the early 1900s during the colonial era and ended up in a German museum. Cameroonian officials have been working for years to get the statue repatriated, and Holland was looking for ways to support the campaign. During his research, he and his contacts in Cameroon came across items of cultural interest that were coming up for sale on eBay auction sites.
"Throwing knives, caps, many things from the palaces are on sale here in the U.S.," Holland said.
Holland decided to spend his own money to buy some of those items, including the masks. "One has been identified as an Oku mask, the other is Nso," he said. The Nso mask, depicting a colorful elephant, was said to be used by a secret society in their ceremonies, while the humanlike Oku mask was worn during funerals....
....COMPLETE ARTICLE HERE: http://cosmiclog.nbcnews.com/_news/...iates-tribal-treasures-through-ebay-diplomacy