Wednesday, 4 April 2018

Stolen Ethiopian artefacts for return only on 'loan'

Woman’s dress from the 1860s. Photograph: Victoria and Albert Museum, London.

Hope of having looted artefacts of African origin returned from the foreign museums where they have been incarcerated is still not in sight. Tomorrow at Victoria and Albert Musuem U.K,  looted Ethiopian treasures will be on display just as the holders hinted that "long term loan" in the future is the only possible way of having the artefacts display back
in Ehiopia. The artefacts on display for the V&A Museum exhibition include a gold crown and royal wedding dress, looted from Ethiopia by the British 150 years ago.
 The Ehiopian situation is just one of many examples of hopelessness woven around loaning rather than outright returnin of stolen treasures. In fact, Nigeian artefacts, particularly of Benin origin taken away from the  old Bini Kingdom in 1897 during the infamous Punitive Expedition had been displayed at exhibitions outside Nigeria. Ridiculously, such exhibitions were described as "collaborative" between Nigeria's National Commission for Museums and Monuments (NCMM) and the foreign holders of the looted treasures.

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Interestingly, the Ethiopian tragedy had similarity with that of the old Bini Kingdom. The Ehiopian artefacts were looted after British military invasion to secure the release of their people taken as hostages by the then Emperor Tewodros. After the expedition,  the British victory led to the Emperor’s suicide.
For Ethiopia, its formal request eleven years ago to the U.K for return of hundreds of her artefacts looted after the 1868 capture of Maqdala, yielded no results.
In its preview of the V&A's exhibition, The Guardian of U.K reports that the museum's director, Tristram Hunt said: “The speediest way, if Ethiopia wanted to have these items on display, is a long-term loan … that would be the easiest way to manage it.” 

1 comment:

  1. The normal sense of shame seems to depart from many when they talk about looted African artefacts. How else can we explain the very low level of arguments offered as justifications for holding on to looted artefacts of others ,mostly wrenched from their owners with great violence? Since when do looters or successors to looters dictate to the owners or the successors of the owners the conditions under which they would return admittedly looted objects? Africans should not encourage such discourse by listening to them. If those who stole our artefacts are not yet ready, after hundred years of illegal possession to return the objects with apology and a promise of better future conduct, let them keep them until they are ready to accept the commandment that thou shall not steal.
    Kwame Opoku.