Possible title: Repatriation of Sacred Kogi Masks from Germany to Colombia May Pose Health Hazards

Possible title: Repatriation of Sacred Kogi Masks from Germany to Colombia May Pose Health Hazards
Possible title: Repatriation of Sacred Kogi Masks from Germany to Colombia May Pose Health Hazards

Possible title: Repatriation of Sacred Kogi Masks from Germany to Colombia May Pose Health Hazards

Possible Title: Repatriation of Sacred Kogi Masks from Germany to Colombia May Pose Health Hazards


After over a century abroad, the Kogi people of Colombia have reclaimed eight sacred masks from the Ethnological Museum of Berlin for their tribe’s cultural revival. The Kogi people view these masks as a link between the spiritual world and their human experience, so their return is of significant cultural and spiritual importance. However, their repatriation poses an unforeseen challenge as they may carry health hazards that German authorities are trying to mitigate during the transfer.

The Kogi People’s Sacred Masks

The Kogi are Indigenous peoples that inhabit the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta mountains, a region in northern Colombia rich in biodiversity and cultural heritage. Kogi people deeply value their ancestral teachings about their connection with nature, the cosmos, and the spiritual world. Central to their culture are their Enyin, or sacred objects, which include the Kogi masks.

The Kogi masks are intricately made using natural fibers, feathers, and seeds. They are believed to represent the ancestral deities and spirits that protect the tribe and their environment. The masks are used during rituals, ceremonies, and initiations where Kogi people meditate, sing, and dance to connect with their spiritual world. The masks are living objects that need to be fed and cared for to maintain their vitality.

The Repatriation of Kogi Masks

The Kogi masks have been kept at the Ethnological Museum of Berlin since German explorer, Konrad Theodor Preuss, brought them to Germany in 1914. The masks were displayed in the museum as part of a colonialist worldview that exoticized Indigenous cultures and positioned them as objects of scientific curiosity.

In recent years, Indigenous groups worldwide have been campaigning for the repatriation of their cultural objects as a way to reclaim their heritage from colonialist institutions. In August 2020, the Kogi requested the repatriation of their eight masks from the Ethnological Museum of Berlin.

The German government agreed to return the masks and appointed experts to oversee their transfer, as they could potentially contain hazardous organic materials that could pose health risks upon repatriation. The masks were therefore placed inside a high-security vacuum chamber to eradicate potential organisms, and a team of repatriation specialists were dressed in protective gear to handle them.

Upon arriving in Colombia, the masks will be quarantined for 14 days to ensure they are safe and free from any hazardous organisms before being transported to the Kogi tribe’s spiritual center.

Health Hazards and Controversy

The potential health hazards arising from the repatriation of cultural objects are not new. In the early 2000s, several Northern American museums were asked to return sacred or ceremonial Indigenous objects to their original communities. However, those objects were found to carry Mycobacteria, a type of pathogen.

In the case of the Kogi masks, the potential hazard comes from Agave fibers, used to make the masks. Agave fibers might cause respiratory complications upon inhalation, such as lung inflammation or illnesses resembling asthma or allergies.

Although the German authorities followed all protocols to mitigate health risks, some controversies have arisen regarding the repatriation. Some experts suggest that Agave fibers would not pose health risks as they are ‘dead,’ and have been inside the vacuum chamber. However, since the masks are living objects, it is challenging to ascertain that they are entirely safe.


The repatriation of cultural objects is crucial for Indigenous communities to reclaim their heritage and restore their collective identity. However, the process is challenging as it can involve health risks that need to be carefully managed. In the case of the Kogi masks, German authorities have taken all necessary precautions to ensure their safe transfer; nonetheless, some controversies have arisen around the health hazard posed by the Agave fibers. The Kogi people eagerly await the return of the masks that have been away for too long, and use them to nurture their spiritual connection with their ancestors and nature.

Hashtags: #KogiMask #IndigenousRights #CulturalRevival #Repatriation #HealthHazards

Summary: The Kogi people have reclaimed their eight sacred masks from the Ethnological Museum of Berlin, but their repatriation involves potential health risks. The masks may contain Agave fibers that pose respiratory complications. German authorities have taken measures to mitigate risks, such as placing the masks inside a vacuum chamber, but controversy remains regarding their safety. The Kogi eagerly anticipate their return, as the masks are central to their tribe’s cultural and spiritual heritage. #NEWS

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