The Negro of Banyoles was half-naked with only a raffia decoration and a coarse orange loincloth, an African warrior displayed as a wild animal in a European museum with a spear in his right hand and a shield in his left, bending slightly forward, and his shoulders raised.
A French trader named Jules Verreaux journeyed to South Africa in 1831 and witnessed the burial of a Tswana warrior in the African interior. Verreaux went to the grave later that night and dug out the body.
He took the skin, skull, and a few bones from the body.
The stolen body parts were stitched together by a French dealer using a metal wire as a spine and wooden boards as shoulder blades and delivered to Paris, France, along with a batch of wild animals, according to the BBC.
Verreaux placed the warrior’s remains in a store at No. 3, Rue Saint Fiacre when he arrived in Paris in 1831.
Verreaux was hailed for his bravery “amid people who are as wild as they are Black” at the time, and the African warrior drew more attention than the giraffes, hyenas, and ostriches on display.
The African warrior, now known as “El Negro,” was relocated to the Banyoles Museum in Spain in the twentieth century, where his revealing loincloth was replaced with a more modest orange skirt and his skin was coated with a layer of shoe polish to make him appear blacker than he was.
Go back to Africa.
As time passed, El Negro’s existence in Europe raised major issues about the darkest aspects of Europe’s colonial past, and people became increasingly aware that his body and burial had been violated.
Dr. Alphonse Arcelin, a Spanish doctor of Haitian descent, wrote to El Pais in 1992, proposing that El Negro be withdrawn from the museum.
Dr. Arcelin stated in his letter that the African warrior’s continuous presence in Banyoles would irritate visiting athletes. The Catalan people, on the other hand, turned down the request, claiming that El Negro was a national “treasure.”
Spain agreed to repatriate the African warrior to Botswana for a ceremonial burial after protracted negotiations with the Organization of African Unity.
El Negro’s ashes were buried in Gaborone, Botswana’s capital, at a ceremony attended by at least 10,000 people in October 2000. “We are willing to forgive, but we must not forget the crimes of the past so that we do not repeat them,” Mompati Merafhe, Botswana’s then-Minister of Foreign Affairs, said mourners during the funeral.
The Tswana warrior was about 27 years old when he died, according to an autopsy performed in 1995. He most likely died of pneumonia.
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