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Bolivia calls for return of statuette

The statue thought to represent Ekeko, the Tiwanakan god of abundance and prosperity, should be returned to Bolivia, says the country's foreign minister Keystone

A 16cm stone statuette purportedly representing the deity Ekeko should be returned to Bolivia, stressed the country’s foreign minister, David Choquehuanca, during a visit to the Swiss capital on Friday.

Before speaking to journalists, Choquehuanca visited the Bern Historical Museum, which acquired the figure in 1929 from the heirs of the 19th century Swiss explorer and diplomat Johann Jakob von Tschudi. Von Tschudi reportedly traded a bottle of cognac for the statuette in 1858 while travelling in the Andean highlands.

Bolivia first requested the restitution of the cultural object in February 2013, saying it represents the deity Illa del Ekeko, an important figure in Bolivian history and culture.

However, the museum claims the green stone statuette could symbolise a goddess of water dating back about 2,000 years.

In a meeting with the museum’s director, Jakob Messerli, Choquehuanca discussed steps to be taken in coming to an agreement over the return of the object. The first step will be to organise experts to analyse whether the statue in fact represents Ekeko.

Choquehuanca told the media he is certain the statuette will eventually be returned to his country. There is no rush, he said.

Choquehuanca also met with Isabelle Chassot, director of the Swiss culture ministry, who offered her department’s services in mediating discussions over the return of the object.

Another theme discussed by Choquehuanca and Chassot was the possibility of a bilateral agreement between Switzerland and Bolivia governing the transfer of cultural objects. Switzerland already has such an agreement with Columbia and is currently  negotiating one with Peru.

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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR

SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR