After 150 years, UK agrees to return looted Asante gold artefacts to Ghana on loan

Stephen Nartey January 25, 2024
Asante gold/Photo credit: British Museum/V&A

The UK will loan back 32 pieces of Asante Gold, considered “crown jewels,” to Ghana, 150 years after they were taken. The artifacts, named after the Asante empire, will be returned to the current King of Asante, Otumfo Osei Tutu II, on a three-year loan agreement, extendable for an additional three years, bypassing the Ghanaian government.

The items are currently held by the Victoria & Albert Museum and the British Museum, according to the BBC. Museums, facing legal restrictions on returning contested items, are using historic loan deals, like the one with Asante Gold, to facilitate returns to their countries of origin. However, some nations may hesitate, as it could inadvertently affirm Britain’s ownership over the items.

The Asante Gold, originally taken from the African kingdom in the 19th century, is set to be returned after pressure from Osei Tutu, who attended the Coronation of King Charles III last year. Tristram Hunt, former Labour MP and current director of the V&A, likened the artifacts to “our Crown Jewels.” The V&A is loaning 17 pieces, and the British Museum is lending 15.

He said when it comes to objects with origin in war and looting, there is a responsibility to share the objects more fairly with the countries of origin.

“It doesn’t seem to me that all of our museums will fall down if we build up these kind of partnerships and exchanges.”

The returned Asante Gold artifacts, including a sword of state, gold badges, ceremonial caps, and pipes, will be displayed at the Manhyia Palace Museum in Kumasi, the Asante region’s capital, as part of the King’s silver jubilee celebrations. Despite assertions that it’s not “restitution by the back door,” these items are considered to hold spiritual significance, believed to be invested with the spirits of former Asante kings.

The Asante, or Ashanti, were a dominant people who governed a significant portion of present-day Ghana from the 1700s to the 1900s. The Asante Empire, known for its wealth from gold and agricultural trade, was also involved in slave trading. From 1824 to 1900, the empire engaged in five conflicts with the British Empire and its African allies, aiming to control coastal areas of present-day Ghana.

While the Asante initially won some conflicts, British success in the fourth and fifth conflicts led to the annexation of the empire. The capital, Kumasi, was burned to the ground, and the city and royal palace were looted. Gold and other artifacts were either sold or given to Britain as reparations for the wars’ costs.

Last Edited by:Mildred Europa Taylor Updated: January 25, 2024


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