Ghana’s Asante king displays return of looted treasuresWed, 01 May 2024 16:32:38 GMT

Ghana’s Asante King on Wednesday displayed for the first time dozens of royal artefacts looted during colonial rule, after they were returned by British museums on a long-term loan as part of his silver jubilee celebrations.The British Museum and the Victoria & Albert Museum earlier this year agreed to give back 32 gold and silver treasures pillaged by British military forces from Asante leader Asantehene’s court during the 19th-century Anglo-Asante Wars. They include the sword of the state known as Mpomponsuo and the gold badges of officials authorised to purify the king’s soul. The collection also features a gold lute harp presented by Asantehene Osei Bonsu to British diplomat Thomas Edward Bowdich during an 1817 trade treaty.Speaking at the event dubbed “Homecoming: adversity and commemoration,” King Otumfuo Osei Tutu II said the first-ever exhibition of the artefacts at Manhyia Palace reflected the “soul of the Asante people.””(Though) not all have been returned, what we have here still embodies the soul of the Asantes,” the king said of the items looted in 1874.”So, the spirit is back here, and today is a day for Asantes, a day for the black African continent, and the spirits are back with us again today.”The Ghanaian King showcased the items in the refurbished Manhyia Palace Museum in Kumasi, the seat of the Asantehene kingdom. Each item offered visitors a rare glimpse into the splendour of Asante history and culture.The exhibition will be opened to the public this week.- Cultural restoration -The return of the objects came as pressure grows on European and US museums and institutions to restore African artefacts stolen during the rule of former colonial powers Britain, France, Germany and Belgium.Dr Tristram Hunt, the Director of the Victoria & Albert Museum, said the artefacts, symbolising the rich heritage of the Asante Kingdom, were returned to address “the very painful history surrounding the acquisition of these objects, a history tainted by the scars of imperial conflict and colonialism.””These treasures have been witnesses to the triumphs and trials of a great kingdom, and their return to Kumasi is a testament to the power of cultural exchange and reconciliation,” he said.A member of the Board of Trustees of the British Museum, Professor Chris Gosden, said the museum is “wholly committed to continuing this relationship, building on this loan in a manner based on friendship, trust, mutual respect, and a willingness to discuss.”He said the agreement reflects almost half a century of discussions between Manhyia Palace and especially with the British Museum.The accord “provides the basis for enhanced cultural cooperation between the Manhyia Palace Museum and the British Museum, and this loan is its first tangible outcome,” Gosden said.The Fowler Museum in the United States also returned seven royal artefacts to the Ghanaian Asante king, making the Manhyia Palace Museum now home to 39 artefacts that were lost to colonial powers.King Osei Tutu II appointed two technical advisors – Ghanaian historian, Ivor Agyeman-Duah, and Scottish historian and former vice principal of the University of Glasgow, Professor Malcolm McLeod – to facilitate the return.Nigeria is also negotiating the return of thousands of 16th to 18th-century metal plaques, sculptures, and objects looted from the ancient Kingdom of Benin and currently held in museums and with art collectors across the US and Europe.The neighbouring Benin Republic received two dozen treasures and artworks stolen in 1892 by French colonial forces.