Otumfuo seeking to retain stolen treasures loaned to Manhyia by UK museum – Report

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Following a successful negotiation for a three-year loan of ancestral golden treasures from the British Museum and the V&A, the Asantehene, Otumfuo Osei Tutu II, is now looking to make this temporary repatriation permanent.

This is according to a UK Telegraph report which stated that the Asantehene is by the move, hoping for a future change in British laws that currently prohibit museums from permanently returning artefacts abroad.

These items, part of the royal regalia taken during the 19th century by British forces, were ceremoniously handed over in Kumasi, the seat of Asanteman, on May 1.

According to the report, the British Conservative Party has ruled out such changes, leaving the Labour Party as the potential facilitator for the legal amendments required for the Asante gold to remain in Ghana.

The treasures, which include a golden sword for swearing in chieftains and gold pendants for the Asante king’s soul purification, are officially still the property of the British institutions.

However, the Manhyia Palace and the Asantehene are optimistic that the loan period may extend long enough for legal reforms to take place, allowing the artefacts to stay.

Ivor Agyeman-Duah, a writer, academic, and director of the Asante king’s museum within the Manhyia Palace, has expressed the community’s desire for the artefacts’ permanent return, stating that their spiritual significance warrants their retention by Otumfuo.

The loan agreement is seen as the initial step in a broader plan to repatriate more Asante materials from the V&A and British Museum. Tristram Hunt, the V&A director and former Labour MP, supports the reform of the British Museum Act 1963 and the National Heritage Act 1983, which currently restrict the repatriation of museum collections.

The Asantehene, the occupant of the Golden Stool, holds considerable influence and has been actively involved in reclaiming the regalia since May 2023, ahead of the 150th anniversary of their seizure.

The British Museum has hinted at “future projects” with the Asante, but the current UK government maintains its stance against altering the laws that govern national museum collections.

This impasse according to the report has affected various repatriation efforts, including those for the Benin Bronzes, Ethiopian sacred tablets, and the Elgin Marbles.

While some UK politicians including Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer have reportedly shown openness to returning the Elgin Marbles, the party has yet to formalize a policy on the matter.





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