LONDON, April 10 — These treasures, plundered by British troops, could soon be returned to Ethiopia.
London’s Victoria and Albert Museum has put them on display to mark the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Maqdala, when British expeditionary troops ransacked the emperor’s fortress.
It took 200 mules and 15 camels to carry their loot of sacred manuscripts and royal gold. Emperor Tewodros the Second killed himself.
Now the V&A, one of several museums that holds Maqdala artefacts, is in talks with Ethiopia about their future.
A long-term loan is one option on the table.
“As we look to the future I think what we’re interested in are partnerships around conservation, interpretation, heritage management, and these need to be supported by government assistance so that institutions like the V&A can support sister institutions in Ethiopia,” V&A Museum director Tristram Hunt said.
That’s welcome, says the Ethiopian ambassador, but how about just giving them back?
“I don’t think Ethiopians will settle for a loan. The exhibition is very important in that people will know they’re here, and they have not been on display, but I don’t think that will be the end of campaigns,” Ethiopian ambassador to the UK Hailemichael Aberra Afework said.
Another former seat of empire, France, sparked a debate in March.
President Emmanuel Macron said African heritage shouldn’t be held prisoner in European museums, and appointed two experts to explore repatriation.
Hunt said that approach assumed guilt, and that the V&A would examine claims case-by-case.
And there’s little change concerning London’s other contested objects — such as the Elgin Marbles from the Athens Parthenon, which are housed in the British museum. — Reuters