Some of the artefacts being returned from the Victoria & Albert Museum
Some of the artefacts being returned from the Victoria & Albert Museum

Asanteman’s stolen artefacts arrive from UK

The artefacts belonging to Asanteman, which under an agreed deal are to be returned to Manhyia temporarily, are in the country.


They will be formally presented to the Asantehene, Otumfuo Osei Tutu II. 

The gold artefacts, the ultimate symbol of Asanteman, were stolen from the court of the Asantehene during the 19th Century conflicts between the British and the powerful Asante people.

After150 years when they were taken, the artefacts, made out of mainly gold and silver, are being returned on an agreed loan deal with two museums, the Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A) and the British Museum, which have been the custodians since they found their way to the UK. 

The loan, which was negotiated with the Asantehene, will last for three years with the option to extend for a further three years, while the V&A Museum is temporarily returning 17 pieces, the British Museum is lending 15 pieces.

Both museums have said they are delighted to have been able to return the objects on loan as part of an important cultural collaboration.

Some national museums in the UK - including the V&A and the British Museum - are banned by law from permanently giving back contested items in their collections, and loan deals such as this are seen as a way to allow objects to return to their countries of origin.

In May, 2023, Otumfuo Osei Tutu II met with the leadership of the two museums in London and re-opened discussions for the restitution.

He appointed as technical advisors, Ghanaian historian and museum economist, Ivor Agyeman-Duah, and a former Scottish Keeper of Ethnography at the British Museum and Vice Principal of the University of Glasgow, Prof. Malcolm McLeod, who previously helped to establish the Manhyia Palace Museum.


Some 32 gold and silver items are being returned under this arrangement.

Among the returned artefacts are a gold peace pipe, a sword of state and gold badges worn by officials charged with cleansing the soul of the king.

In safe hands

Otumfuo’s chief negotiator, Mr Agyeman-Duah, confirmed the items had arrived in Ghana and they were in "safe hands" and a date has been scheduled for the formal presentation to  the Asantehene.

“They have arrived safely and like the formal presentation of the items presented to Otumfuo at a durbar at Manhyia, these will also be presented to him at a special ceremony,” Mr Agyeman-Duah told the Daily Graphic.

He said the items, together with what was received from the US last February,  would go on display next month at the Manhyia Palace Museum in Kumasi as part of celebrations to mark the 25th anniversary of Otumfuo’s ascension to the throne and the 150th anniversary of the Sagrenti War.

Back for good

Last February, Otumfuo led Asanteman to hold a durbar to receive the first batch of the artefacts, made up of seven treasures from the Fowler Museum of the University of California in Los Angeles, in February.

The objects in the Fowler Museum got to the United States from Britain and were later acquired by the museum through the Wellcome Trust in 1965. 

Unlike the UK museums, the Fowler Museum agreed to return the treasures permanently following the university’s decision that all looted objects should be returned to their countries origin.

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