Stolen Asante Artefacts From British and V&A Museums Now Home

After 150 years, 32 of the artefacts stolen by the British from the Palace of Asantehene Kofi Karikari in Kumasi during the 1874 Sagrenti War have returned home.

Fifteen (15) gold and silver objects from the British Museum and 17 from the Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A) jointly arrived in the country on April 9, 2024, a statement released by the Chief negotiator representing the Manhyia Palace confirmed.

“This followed the final signing of official documentation in London two weeks ago by the directors of the BM and V&A, Sir Mark Jones and Dr. Tristram Hunt and the chief negotiator, Mr. Ivor Agyeman-Duah who represented and signed on behalf of the Manhyia Palace.”

The royal artefacts return on a long-term loan, that is, an initial three-year loan renewable for another three.

The items unlike the ones from the Fowler Museum cannot be given back permanently since the British Museum Act 1963 prohibits the Museum from removing an artefact from its collections unless for a loan, a duplicate, damaged or unfit.

Exhibition at Manhyia Museum
These, together with the seven-piece from the Fowler Museum, would be installed at the Manhyia Museum, the statement noted.

“The subsequent closure of the Manhyia Palace Museum for three weeks would be for installation works and encasing of over forty returned objects including seven that have already been permanently given by the Fowler Museum of the University of California at Los Angeles. These would collectively constitute the star objects of an international exhibition that would be opened to the public, Homecoming- Adversity and Commemoration.”

The reopening of the museum after the installation will take place on May 1, 2024, at an official event by the Asantehene Otumfuo Osei Tutu II.

A list of expected guests at the event includes directors, curators and trustees of the BM and V&A from London as well as journalists and photographers from the BBC, Reuters, Aljazeera, The Daily Telegraph, The Art Newspaper, some leading figures of Government of Ghana, UNESCO and members of the diplomatic community.

Book Launch
The occasion on May 1 would also witness the unveiling of two major books.

One is a history of 200 years of museology in Asante titled “A History of Manhyia Palace Museum: Inaugural and Other Objects,” written by Agyeman-Duah, with a foreword provided by Gus Casely-Hayford OBE, Director of V&A East and previously Director of the Smithsonian National Museum of African Art in Washington, DC.

The other book is on contemporary reflections on Images of Ghana titled, “Museums, the Ownership of Cultural Property and Restitution” by former Keeper of Ethnography at the British Museum and Vice Principal of the University of Glasgow, UK, Prof. Malcolm McLeod.

Fowler Museum
The leadership of the Fowler Museum in Los Angeles officially and permanently handed over seven of these artefacts which were in their care to Otumfuo and Asanteman during the Kuntunkuni Durbar- an event to mark the 150th anniversary of the Sagrenti War- on February 8, 2024.

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