After 150 years, 39 artefacts that shape a part of Asante’s royal regalia are because of go back to the Asantehene (ruler of the Asante folks) in Kumasi, Ghana, in February and April this 12 months. The Asante empire was once the most important and maximum tough within the area within the 18th century and regulated a space that was once wealthy in gold. Lots of the gold royal artefacts had been looted by way of British troops throughout the 3rd Anglo-Asante warfare of 1874 (Sagrenti War).
The primary number of seven gadgets is anticipated from the Fowler Museum on the College of California in Los Angeles. The second one number of 32 will arrive from the British Museum and the Victoria & Albert Museum in the United Kingdom. Those artefacts are being loaned to the Asante folks for 6 years. Archaeologist and Ghana heritage specialist Rachel Ama Asaa Engmann spoke to the Asantehene’s technical marketing consultant for the venture, historian and museum economist Ivor Agyeman-Duah, concerning the adventure to go back the pieces and its implications for cultural restitution, repatriation and the decolonisation of museums.
What are those gadgets and the way did they go away Asante?
They had been royal regalia that was once looted in 1874 from the palace in Kumasi after the sacking of the town by way of British colonial army troops. There was once every other a punitive expedition in 1896 which resulted in additional looting. They incorporated ceremonial swords and ceremonial cups, a few of them essential with regards to a palace’s size of royalty. As an example, the Mponponsuo sword, created 300 years in the past, dates again to the mythical Okomfo (non secular chief) connected with the founding of the empire, Okomfo Anokye. This sword is what the Asantehene used to swear the oath of allegiance to his folks. Chiefs used the similar sword to swear their oaths to the Asantehene.
One of the vital pieces had been bought at public sale at the open marketplace in London; artwork creditors purchased them and sooner or later donated a few of them to museums (some had been stored in non-public collections). The British Museum and the Victoria & Albert Museum additionally bought a few of them.
On the other hand, now not each and every merchandise you spot on the British Museum was once looted. As an example, there have been cultural exchanges between the Asantehene Osei Bonsu and T.E. Bowdich, an emissary of the African Corporate of Traders who travelled to Kumasi in 1817 to barter industry. Some items got to Bowdich, who deposited them on the British Museum afterward. There have been 14 of these things.
How was once the settlement reached?
The problem has been at the strategy planning stage for half a century. It’s now not simply a right away fear of the present Asantehene. It’s been a priority of the remaining 3 occupants of the stool (throne). However this 12 months is significant as it marks 150 years for the reason that Sagrenti Warfare. It additionally marks 100 years for the reason that go back of the Asantehene Agyeman Prempeh after his exile in Seychelles and 25 years for the reason that current Asantehene, Oseu Tutu II, ascended the stool.
So, whilst in London in Might 2023, after having legit discussions with administrators of those museums, he reopened discussions and negotiations. He requested me and Malcolm McLeod, former curator and pupil on the British Museum
and vice-principal on the College of Glasgow, to assist within the technical selections that might be made. We’ve been running in this for the previous 9 months.
Why is it a six 12 months mortgage and now not an outright go back?
The ethical proper to possession does exist. However there also are the rules of antiquity in the United Kingdom. The Victoria & Albert and the British Museum are nationwide museums. They’re ruled by way of very strict laws which don’t allow de-accessioning or completely casting off a murals or different object from a museum’s assortment to promote it or another way cast off it.
That had all the time been the constraining issue over the past 50 years. However there was once additionally some way that we can have these things for a most of six years. Now not the entire gadgets are being exhibited on the British Museum. Many have by no means been exhibited and lie in garage in a warehouse.
In keeping with the instances and the trinity of anniversaries, we got here to an settlement. Discussions will on the other hand proceed between us and those museums to discover a lasting settlement.
In fact, the Ghana revel in shall be essential for restitution claims from different nations in Africa.
What does this imply to the Asante folks – and Ghana?
The truth that over the past couple of months we had been in a position to achieve some type of settlement for this to occur is testimony of the pastime in multicultural agreements.
Any set of gadgets this is 150 years outdated (or older) shall be of pastime to many of us. Such artefacts assist us to glue the previous with the prevailing. They’re vital for a way our folks had been, with regards to creativity and era, how they had been in a position to make use of gold and different creative houses. They’re additionally one thing that can encourage those that are within the craft of gold manufacturing nowadays.
Manhiya Palace Museum reopens this 12 months in April. The exhibition of those gadgets goes to extend customer attendance on the museum. It receives about 80,000 guests a 12 months and we estimate that it would upward thrust to 200,000 a 12 months with the go back of those gadgets. This may increasingly generate earnings and make allowance us to extend and increase our personal museums.