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Ekeko Bern returns deity statuette to Bolivia

Over 150 years after a Swiss explorer brought a Bolivian deity statuette to Switzerland, it has been returned to its original home. (SRF/swissinfo.ch)

A big welcome ceremony has been held in La Paz for a 16 centimetre statuette. After more than 150 years in Switzerland, this 2000-year-old stone figure of the deity Ekeko has been returned to Bolivia.

The move means a lot to the indigenous people, who have been campaigning for the statuette to be restituted for a long time. It’s likely that Ekeko will attract far more attention from visitors in its country of origin, than it did in Bern’s History Museum, where it was on display for the last 85 years.

Ekeko came to Switzerland in 1858, when the Swiss explorer and diplomat Johann Jakob von Tschudi allegedly traded the statuette for a bottle of cognac while travelling in the Andean highlands. His grandson later sold it to the Bern History Museum.

A tug of war began for Ekeko in 2013. In spring 2014 the Bolivian foreign minister came to Bern and insisted on the object’s return. At the end of October 2014 Bern gave in.

There are different opinions on what the statuette is. The Bern museum has claimed it could symbolise a goddess of water rather than Ekeko, the god of luck and prosperity. The Bern museum is still offering its assistance in conservation and research though. In return, it’s hoping to borrow objects for a temporary exhibition on the Andes in Bern.

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