UK to Return Ghana’s “Crown Jewels” 150 Years After Asante Looting

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In a historic move, the United Kingdom is set to return a significant collection of Ghana’s “crown jewels” looted from the court of the Asante king 150 years ago. The Victoria & Albert Museum (V&A) will lend 17 pieces, while the British Museum will contribute 15 items under long-term loan deals, as revealed by the BBC.

Among the treasures making their way back to Ghana is a gold peace pipe, symbolic of the nation’s rich cultural heritage. These artifacts, taken during 19th-Century conflicts between the British and the Asante, include a sword of state and gold badges worn by officials responsible for cleansing the soul of the king.

Tristram Hunt, the Director of the V&A, likened the gold items to the UK’s “Crown Jewels” and emphasized the responsibility museums hold in sharing contested objects more fairly. The loan agreements, lasting three years with an option for a further extension, mark a significant step toward fostering cultural cooperation.

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The return is not regarded as restitution by the UK but rather as part of a cultural partnership. The loan deals are structured with Otumfo Osei Tutu II, the current Asante king, known as the Asantehene, who attended the Coronation of King Charles last year. The artifacts will be displayed at the Manhyia Palace Museum in Kumasi, celebrating the Asantehene’s silver jubilee.

Crown JewelsNana Oforiatta Ayim, special adviser to Ghana’s culture minister, expressed the spiritual and symbolic importance of these artifacts, considering them part of the nation’s soul. She sees this loan as a positive starting point for healing and commemorating the violence that occurred during the looting 150 years ago.

While UK museums still hold numerous items taken from Ghana, including the iconic gold trophy head, the return of these “crown jewels” marks a significant step in acknowledging the historical impact of looting and fostering cultural collaboration between nations. The artifacts are expected to be displayed with great significance, reflecting the rich history of the Asante people and Ghana’s cultural heritage.

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