British and Victoria & Albert Museums return Asante objects of 1874 to Ghana

On Tuesday, April 9, the British Museum (BM) and the Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A) made a historic return of thirty-two royal objects to Ghana.


These objects, taken from the Palace in Kumasi during the Anglo-Asante Wars of the 19th century, include items from the Sargrenti War of 1874.

Among the returned artifacts are gold and silver regalia associated with the Asante royal court, which will now be displayed at the Palace Museum in Ghana as part of a long-term loan agreement between the V&A, the British Museum, and Ghana. For many Ghanaians, this marks the first time in 150 years that these cherished pieces will be seen in their homeland.

The loan agreement, initially for three years and renewable for another three, comprises fifteen pieces from the BM and seventeen from the V&A. The final signing of official documentation in London two weeks ago sealed this significant cultural exchange, with directors Sir Mark Jones and Dr. Tristram Hunt of the BM and V&A, respectively, alongside chief negotiator Mr. Ivor Agyeman-Duah representing and signing on behalf of the Manhyia Palace.

The return of these artifacts coincides with the silver jubilee year of Asantehene Osei Tutu II and the commemoration of significant historical events, including the 150th anniversary of Asantehene Prempeh I's return from exile. As part of the homecoming ceremony, Otumfuo Osei Tutu II will receive the objects in Kumasi, where they will be showcased in specially designed Belgian cases.


To celebrate this momentous occasion, an international exhibition titled "Homecoming-Adversity and Commemoration" will be organized.

The exhibition, curated by a team of British and Ghanaian experts, will feature over forty returned objects, including those permanently given by the Fowler Museum of the University of California at Los Angeles. Partnerships with organizations such as British Airways, Fidelity Bank, and the Otumfuo Foundation underscore the significance of this collaborative effort.

The grand opening of the exhibition on May 1, 2024, will be attended by dignitaries, curators, and trustees from London's BM and V&A, as well as representatives from the Government of Ghana, UNESCO, and the diplomatic community. The event will also mark the release of two major books, shedding light on the history of museology in Asante and contemporary reflections on ownership of cultural property and restitution.

As the Asantehene continues to champion cultural diplomacy, including engagements with British organizations, the return of these artifacts represents a step forward in promoting cultural heritage and fostering international cooperation. Additionally, the Asantehene's upcoming public lecture at the BM in London, featuring renowned philosopher Kwame Anthony Appiah, reflects a commitment to dialogue and mutual understanding in the realm of culture and heritage.


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