/ 22 April 2024

UK loans stolen Asante treasures to Ghana in six-year deal

Asante Scorpion Ring, From Ghana (gold) (photo By Art Images Via Getty Images)
An Asante scorpion ring, from Ghana. (Photo by Art Images via Getty Images)

The United Kingdom has returned on a six-year loan 32 gold and silver treasures looted from the Asante kingdom over 150 years ago back to Ghana, Ghanian negotiators said Saturday. 

The precious artifacts, comprising 15 items from the British Museum and 17 from the Victoria & Albert Museum (V&A), were originally pilfered from the court of the Asante king, during turbulent 19th-century clashes between the British and the influential Asante people. 

As part of the historic accord, the revered relics, including gold and silver regalia associated with the Asante Royal Court, will be showcased at the Palace Museum in Kumasi, as a pivotal component of the year-long celebration honouring the king’s silver jubilee. 

The ceremonial return of these treasures comes amid mounting pressure on European and US museums and institutions to address the restitution of African artefacts plundered during the colonial era by powers such as Britain, France, Germany, and Belgium. 

Confirming the return of the items, Ivor Agyeman-Duah, the chief negotiator, said the objects were given to the palace on loan. 

“These cherished artefacts, which hold immense cultural and spiritual significance for the Ashanti people, are here as part of a loan agreement for an initial three years and renewable for another three,” Agyeman-Duah told  AFP by telephone. 

“It marks a significant moment in our efforts to reclaim and preserve our heritage, fostering a renewed sense of pride and connection to our rich history. There will be an exhibition starting 1 May at the Manhyia Palace Museum that is aimed at sharing the story of our past with the world,” he added. 

This move echoes a recent initiative by the Fowler Museum in California, which returned seven royal artifacts including a gold necklace and ornamental char to Ghana’s traditional Ashanti king, Otumfuo Osei Tutu II, coinciding with his silver jubilee commemoration. 

Neighbouring Nigeria is also negotiating the return of thousands of 16th to 18th century metal objects looted from the ancient kingdom of Benin and currently held by museums and art collectors across the United States and Europe. 

Two years ago, Benin received two dozen treasures and artworks stolen in 1892 by French colonial forces during the sacking of the royal Palace of Abomey.

© Agence France-Presse