Asante Artefacts To Return Home After 150 Years
Thirty-nine gold and silver artefacts belonging to the Asante Kingdom are set to return home after decades of decorating the British Museum, the Victoria & Albert Museum and the Fowler Museum.
They encompass fifteen objects from the British Museum, seventeen from the Victoria & Albert Museum and seven from the Fowler Museum.
The objects were ransacked from the Palace of Asantehene Kofi Karikari in Kumasi during the Sagrenti War of 1874 under the orders of the then Governor of the Gold Coast, Sir Garnet Wolseley in an attempt to subdue the Asantes who opposed the British rule.
These objects were distributed across museums in the Americas and Europe including the British Museum, the Victoria & Albert Museum and the Fowler Museum.
Ahead of the commemoration of the 150th anniversary of the War, the three museums have agreed to return the objects to their home.
It also comes ahead of the silver jubilee of Asantehene Otumfuo Osei Tutu II.
The return deal which has finally been successful in the tenure of His Majesty Otumfuo Osei Tutu II began 50 years ago between the Manhyia Palace and the British Museum.
According to a joint statement by the British Museum and the Victoria & Albert Museum, the items are being loaned to the Kingdom on a long-term basis since the Museums by law are barred from permanently returning such artefacts.
“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 & Albert Museum.”
The items are expected to be displayed in Manhyia Palace Museum for six years.
However, the return of the artefacts from the Fowler Museum in Los Angeles which is expected in the country in early February will be on a permanent basis, the chief negotiator for the return of the items, Mr Ivor Agyeman- Duah tells opemsuo.com.
This was after the University’s policy changed for all looted items to be returned to their original owners.
The items from the British Museum include the 300-year-old original Mponponso sword by which every Asantehene swore the oath of office and used by the paramount chiefs of Asante to swear their oath of allegiance to the Asantehene.
The seventeen objects from the Victoria & Albert include 1 gold peace pipe, 3 cast gold soul-washers’ badges, 7 sections of sheet-gold ornament, 1 silver straining spoon, 1 pair of silver anklets and 1 section of sheet-gold ornament purchased in 1874 from a military family.
Genesis of Return
In May 2023, while on an official trip in the United Kingdom, Otumfuo held a meeting with the executives of the British Museum led by Dr Hartwig Fischer over the return of the artefacts with the discussions ending inconclusively.
His Majesty thus appointed two technical advisors, the Ghanaian historian and museum economist, Ivor Agyeman- Duah and the Scottish historian and former Vice Principal of the University of Glasgow, Professor Malcolm McLeod to spearhead the return.
In June 2023, Senior Curator of African Arts in the Fowler Museum at the University of California in Los Angeles, Dr Erica Jones approached the Manhyia Palace with a conversation about returning a seven-piece artefact donated by Wellcome Trust in 1964.
Dr Jones presented a folder containing pictures of some of the earmarked collections in the museum to the King.
Otumfuo welcomed the news as a good one and commended Dr Jones and her team for their willingness to return what isn’t theirs and expressed his desire to have them before the 150th anniversary of the Sir Garnet Wolseley war in February 2024.
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