10th Anniversary of Naba Martin Adongo Abilba III

Asantehene, Otumfuo Osei Tutu II
Asantehene, Otumfuo Osei Tutu II

No compromise on return of Asante regalia

­­The Asantehene, Otumfuo Osei Tutu II, recently held discussions with the leadership of the British Museum in London on the possible return of Ashanti regalia taken from Kumasi by the British army after the Ashanti war against the British in 1874.

At the meeting were also the Director of the British Museum, Dr Hartwig Fischer, the Deputy Director of the British Museum, Dr Jonathan Williams; the Head of the Africa Department, Sam Nixon, and the Curator, Julie Hudson.

Asantehene also requested for cooperation and technical assistance between the Manhyia Palace and the British Museum in the management of the regalia when it is returned.

Other takeaways from the meeting are that a previous memorandum of understanding between the Manhyia Palace and the British Museum will be reviewed and a loaning agreement reached for some of the regalia to be sent to Kumasi for the silver jubilee celebration of the king.

Efforts to get back the regalia taken by the British army is in line with the restructuring and expansion of the Manhyia Palace Museum, and according to Otumfuo Osei Tutu II, like all other museums, it needed other collections to strengthen patronage and growth.

What the Otumfuo Osei Tutu is endeavouring to do is a noble thing. Indeed, all over the world, there has been a push for restitution for people who have been pillaged, maltreated and killed, like the Jews during the holocaust, and Africans, for the slave trade.

For instance, on May 10, 2023, Jewish groups protested the sale of jewels of the billionaire, Heidi Horten, whose husband made his fortune in Nazi Germany as party members took over Jewish firms when their owners left the country in the 1930s.

The auction firm, Christie’s, sold 700 pieces of jewellery estimated to be worth more than $150 million (£118 million), and the proceeds to be given to charity, including financing Holocaust research. 

However, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, a US-based Jewish human rights group, demanded Christie's not to go ahead with the sale, as the wealth acquired were from the Nazi seizure of property from Jews and transfer to non-Jews.

The Centre wanted Christie’s to first endeavour to find the real owners of the jewellery and return them.

The family of Ethiopian Prince, Alemayehu, is also asking for the return of the body of its prince, who was captured with his family and brought to Britain at just seven years, but died at 19 and was buried at the Windsor Castle in the 19th Century.

Although Buckingham Palace has refused the request, saying that exhuming the body might disturb the graves of others, the family insists that the return of its prince’s body is the right thing to do

We congratulate the Asantehene for his efforts and insights. Indeed, the restructuring of the Manyhia Palace Museum and efforts for some regalia to be loaned to Manhyia for the Silver Jubilee anniversary of Otumfuo Osei Tutu II is commendable.

The return of the regalia, if possible, would boost tourism for Ghana.

We note, however, that the British Museum Act does not permit the removal of articles from the museum as stated by Dr Fischer, who adds that further visits and engagements will shape the loaning of the regalia to the Manhyia Museum by appropriate legal considerations and agreements. 

The Daily Graphic urges Otumfuo Osei Tutu II to push for the total return of Ashanti regalia, including those at the Victoria and Albert Museum’s (V&A) in London, the world’s leading art and design institution.

Though the British Museum Act may not permit the removal of the regalia, the international drive for restitution for blacks and Jews must be the starting point to get back what is rightfully ours.

We encourage the Asantehene to keep the cordiality with the British but maintain firmness in regaining what is rightfully out heritage.

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