LOOTED ASANTE (GHANA) GOLD IN WALLACE COLLECTION, LONDON: RETURN STOLEN ITEMS TO MANHYIA PALACE, KUMASI.
“The town burnt furiously, all these three days of rain failing in any way to impede the progress of the devouring element. The thick thatched roofs of the houses, dry as timber except just on the outside, blazed as though they had been ready prepared for the bonfire, and the flames ran down the framework which supported the mud walls. In the larger houses, more substantially built, only the roofs caught fire; but the destruction was practically complete. Slowly huge dense columns of smoke curled up to the sky, and lighted fragments of thatch drifting far and wide upon the wind showed to the King of Ashanti, and to all his subjects who had fled from the capital, that the white man never failed to keep his word.” Henry Brackenbury (1)
Gold mask, 20 cm in height, weighing 1.36 kg of pure gold, seized by the British from Kumasi, Ghana, in 1874 and now in the Wallace Collection, London, United Kingdom.
We read with great interest the following from the Art Newspaper:
‘The gold head is now to be displayed in the exhibition Sir Richard Wallace: the Collector (20 June-2 January 2019), the inaugural show in the museum’s new exhibition gallery. Xavier Bray, the Wallace’s director, says that he is “keen to work with scholars and researchers in Ghana and internationally to develop our understanding of this incredible work of art”. The director is now making plans for a new permanent display of Asante art next year, after the temporary exhibition.’ (2)
We have discussed in a previous article the history of the British invasion of Asante, Ghana in 1874 and the subsequent plunder of Asante gold objects and other precious artefacts from the Asante capital, Kumasi. (3)
Readers will no doubt recognise that the generous offer of the director of the Wallace Collection to work with scholars and researchers in Ghana and internationally to develop our understanding of this incredible work of art”
comes at a time that many European museums are busy discussing the issue of restitution of looted African artefacts in Western museums. There is no word about restitution in the interview. It seems the museum and its staff are living in a world of their own. They are still in the Pre-Ouagadougou period. They do not realise that an offer to work with scholars from the countries of origin of the artefacts can no longer be seen as a great step forward. It has been the norm for a while. The museum is making an offer that should have come long ago, that is, before the late Asantehene, Otumfuo Nana Opoku Ware II and the present Asantehene, Otumfuo Nana Osei Tutu II requested the return of the Asante treasures and were turned down by the museum and the British Government. (4)
What will be the use of collaboration now? To give those who have been holding illegally for some 125 years looted Asante treasures more information and knowledge about the objects?
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