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The BBC's Alan Little
"The reclaiming of El Negro is the reclaiming of African dignity"
 real 56k

Friday, 6 October, 2000, 14:52 GMT 15:52 UK
Stuffed man buried in Botswana
bushman arriving in Botswana
The bushman was given a ceremonial send off
The remains of an African man who died 170 years ago have been reburied at a religious ceremony in Botswana.

His body was displayed in a Spanish museum for much of the 20th century.

The honour we are bestowing on this son of Africa is an indication of our strong determination to close a chapter of the injustices of the past

Botswana's Foreign Minister Mompati Merafhe
No-one knows his real name, but in Spain he was known as El Negro.

The Christian ceremony took place in a public park in the capital, Gaborone, attended by more than 1,000 mourners, including government leaders and foreign diplomats.

'Forgive not forget'

Standing next to the small coffin draped in the blue, white and black flag of Botswana, Foreign Minister Mompati Merafhe said: "We are prepared to forgive, but we cannot forget the crimes of the past, lest they are repeated."

The authorities say the reburial is intended to cleanse Africa of the humiliation of colonialism

Skeleton head
Two French scientists dug him up in 1830
The body was flown from Spain to Africa and arrived in Gabarone on Wednesday.

His grave was robbed by two French scientists the day after his death around 1830.

Taxidermists embalmed his body and took it to Europe for public display.

Scientific racism

It was the age of scientific racism and the early years of the eugenics movement, when European scientists believed they could trace perceived cultural differences between peoples back to differences in physical characteristics.

It was also an age in which living African adults were captured and exhibited in Europe like animals in a zoo for the educational benefit of European publics.

El Negro ended up behind glass, in a museum in the Spanish city of Banyoles near Barcelona, with a shield and spear in his hand.

His skin had been polished black to make him appear more African.

The practice, still common by European museums of exhibiting and storing mummified African bodies or body parts, is the source of deep resentment throughout Africa.

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28 Sep 00 | Africa
Stuffed man going to 'wrong' home
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