Initial batch of looted artefacts arrive in Ghana

In this photo provided by the Victoria and Albert Museum, London on Thursday, Jan. 25, 2024 a view of a cast gold badge, worn by the Asantehene's or king's 'soul washer' as a badge of office, originating from Ghana. Two British museums are returning gold and silver artifacts to Ghana under a long-term loan arrangement, 150 years after the items were looted from the Asante people during Britain’s colonial battles in West Africa.(Dominic Naish, Victoria and Albert Museum, London via AP)
In this photo provided by the Victoria and Albert Museum,

The first set of seven artefacts looted during the third Anglo-Asante War of 1874 has touched down in Ghana. The artifacts, transported via a United Airlines flight, are set to be formally presented to the Asantehene, Otumfuo Osei Tutu II, on Thursday, February 8, 2024.

Heading the delegation of three individuals is Dr. Silvia Forni, the Director of the Fowler Museum at the University of California, Los Angeles, where these historical pieces were housed for nearly six decades. The official presentation will take place during the commencement durbar, marking the 150th anniversary of the war at Dwaberem, Manhyia Palace.

Accompanying Dr. Forni are esteemed colleagues, including Dr. Rachel Raynor, Director of Registration and Collections, Dr. Erica Jones, Curator of the Africa Department, and Professor Kwesi Ampene, an external affiliate and Chair of the Music Department at Tufts University.

Remarkably, the Fowler Museum had initially acquired these returned items from the Wellcome Trust in 1965. The Wellcome Trust, a prominent charity overseeing the Wellcome Collection museum and library in Britain, pays homage to the illustrious British-American industrialist and art collector, Sir Henry Wellcome. The artefacts’ return adds a significant chapter to the ongoing narrative of cultural restitution and historical reclamation.

The restitution of the objects has been the subject of continuous discussions for several years between the Manhyia Palace and the Fowler Museum.

The objects’ eventual permanent return was made possible by their departure from California, which was authorised by a December CITES permission.

Historian Ivor Agyeman-Duah verified the information, attributing the choice to return to a change in university policy about stolen property. The return of such objects to their original owners is made possible by this amended policy.

Additionally, Mr. Agyeman-Duah disclosed the creation of a brand-new model for cross-cultural cooperation.

The Fowler Museum at UCLA, the Manhyia Palace Museum, and the College of Art and Built Environment at Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology will all be involved in this partnership.

As intended by the Asantehene, who doubles as the Chancellor of the University, such an arrangement is a first step in promoting cross-cultural cooperation.

The seven objects, dating back to the period before Asantehene Kofi Karkari in the 1840s, include an ornamental chair of wood, brass, leather, and iron; ten large beads used as bracelets or anklets; strands of seed or bug-shaped beads; gold of an elephant hair, glass, and silver; a royal stool ornament; a royal necklace, and a royal stool ornament.

The seven objects that are being returned date to the 1840s, before Asantehene Kofi Karkari.

They consist of an ornamental chair made of wood, brass, leather, and iron; ten sizable beads worn as an anklet or bracelet; a string of beads shaped like seeds or insects; gold, glass, and silver; an ornament for a royal stool; and a royal necklace.