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England temporarily returns to Ghana state treasures stolen during colonial times

England temporarily returns to Ghana state treasures stolen during colonial times

The sacred objects, stolen by the British colonialists, were finally returned after a 150-year wait. This is what happened on May 1 in Kumasi, Ghana. An emotional moment, however, underlines the complexity of dispossessed people reclaiming their heritage, with the objects involved not being returned but only loaned by the British Museum.

To our correspondent who has just returned from Kumasi,

Without words, almost without a voice, 24-year-old Emmanuel Aingoros witnesses the arrival of his story. 32 artefacts from the Ashanti Empire, looted by British settlers 150 years ago, are finally on display at his home in Kumasi. A testimony to Ghana's past, but also to his own family. ” I am very happy to see the sword of the kingdom called Mpomponsuo, which many of my ancestors pledged allegiance to His Majesty. I believe that when we dust off the sword, we can even find the DNA of my ancestors in it! »

These peas, but also necklaces, numerous ornaments and gold badges, were then used to purify the king's soul. The artefacts, sacred to many, however, must return to the UK in six years. Ivar Agyemang Tua Ashanti King's Negotiator with British Museums. ” There are two main laws that prevent the permanent return of goods. This legislative complex governing the repatriation of antiquities has been a source of debate for the past fifty years. »

A first step

In particular, the British Museum Act, 1963 was adopted. A law that did not fail to raise some criticism among Ghanaians, the current Ashanti king, Otumfuo Osei Tutu, did not escape the second. ” Legally, some wonder, “These belong to us, so why are they being borrowed from us?” But this is not the end, I know we still have a lot to do, this is just a first step. These objects, looted and stolen in 1874 and available to our people today, embody the Ashanti spirit. »

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If a permanent withdrawal of these items from the United Kingdom is not possible, many aspects need to be improved in the meantime. This was the message from Malcolm McLeod, the historian who negotiates with British Museums, at the opening. ” Restructuring, without follow-up, is a waste of a great opportunity if it is treated as an end in itself. I think it's time for rich museums to seek funding to specifically help museums abroad. Each museum should treat the other as an equal, not superior or inferior. »

The Palace of Mansia has begun new negotiations with British collections and museums and South African ones. Ashanti representatives hope to return a hundred looted artifacts.

Read moreTreasures from the Ashanti court looted 150 years ago return to Ghana