British museums will return stolen royal relics from Ghana: The artifacts were stolen during the colonial rule

Artifacts in gold and silver that were taken from Ghana's Asante royal court during colonial times will be returned to the British Museum and the Victoria and Albert Museum, the palace and the museums announced.

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Under a long-term loan agreement, two British museums are returning looted gold and silver artifacts to Ghana as pressure mounts on British institutions to recover treasures looted during the British Empire’s global hegemony. “Items of gold and silver regalia associated with the Asante royal court will be displayed in Kumasi later this year as part of a long-term loan commitment by the British Museum and the Victoria and Albert Museum,” the museums said in a joint statement.

The decision by Ghana to accept the objects for a long-term loan coincides with a growing global movement among museums and other institutions to restore African artefacts that were once owned by Belgium, France, Britain, and other former colonial powers. Among the many artefacts that are being returned are cast gold soul-washers’ badges, a gold peace pipe, and a 300-year-old Mponponso sword that is used in Asantehene swearing-in ceremonies.

The history behind the stolen artifacts

A total of 32 objects, 15 from the British Museum and 17 from the Victoria and Albert Museum, all in London, were removed after the third Anglo-Asante War in 1874.

They will be displayed in Kumasi, the seat of the Asantehene kingdom, at the Manhyia Palace Museum for up to six years, the royal palace said.

“Items of gold and silver regalia associated with the Asante royal court will be displayed in Kumasi later this year as part of a long-term loan commitment by the British Museum and the Victoria and Albert Museum,” the museums said in a joint statement.”Many of these items will be seen in Ghana for the first time in 150 years.”

The repatriation coincides with three milestones in the Ashanti kingdom: the 150th anniversary of the 1874 war, the centenary celebration marking the return of one king, Asantehene Agyeman Prempeh I, from exile after he was banished, and the silver jubilee of the current king, Asantehene Osel Tutu II. It comes after almost half a century of discussions between Manhyia palace, especially with the British Museum. Asantehene Osel Tutu II appointed two technical advisors to facilitate the return: Ghanaian historian Ivor Agyeman- Duah and Scottish historian and former vice principal of the University of Glasgow, Malcolm McLeod. Additionally, Nigeria is negotiating the return of thousands of metal plaques, sculptures, and other artefacts that date from the 16th to the 18th century that were taken from the ancient Kingdom of Benin and are today housed in museums and the collections of art collectors in the US and Europe.

Further information regarding the return of the artifacts

Twelve valuables and works of art that had been taken from the capital of the erstwhile Kingdom of Dahomey in 1892 by French colonial soldiers were given to the nearby Benin republic two years ago. The return of the treasures to Ghana comes amid ongoing pressure on Britain from Greece over the Parthenon Marbles. The sculptures were removed from the Parthenon temple at the Acropolis in Greece in the early 19th century by British diplomat Thomas Bruce, the earl of Elgin. Britain disputes Athens’ claim that the marbles were stolen, and the matter has been a point of disagreement between the two nations for many years.

By: Gursharan Kaur

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