Clive Bull 1am - 4am
UK museums strike loan deal to return Asante Gold to Ghana that was looted over 100 years ago
25 January 2024, 07:25 | Updated: 25 January 2024, 07:27
The UK is returning a selection of Asante Gold looted from Ghana over 100 years ago in a historic loan deal.
Listen to this article
The British Museum has struck a deal to return 15 pieces of the gold to Ghana and the Victoria & Albert Museum (V&A) 17 pieces, under a new three-year loan deal.
Loan deals are used as a way to enable collections to return to their countries of origin.
The Ghanian loan deal, which can be extended by an additional three years, was agreed with Otumfo Osei Tutu II, the current Asante king known as the Asantehene.
Some national museums in the UK, including the V&A and British Museum, are prohibited from permanently returning such items to their countries of origin.
The items will reportedly go on display at the Manhyia Palace Museum in Kumasi, the capital of the Asante region, to celebrate the Asantehene's silver jubilee.
Tristram Hunt, director of the V&A, said the gold items taken from the court of the Asante King are the equivalent of "our Crown Jewels".
Mr Hunt also said when museums "hold objects with origins in war and looting in military campaigns, we have a responsibility to the countries of origin to think about how we can share those more fairly today.
"It doesn't seem to me that all of our museums will fall down if we build up these kind of partnerships and exchanges,” he told the BBC.
It is hoped the historic deal will pave the way for handling other repatriation disputes - potentially including the long-running dispute over the Elgin Marbles.
Ghana’s chief operation said he hoped the deal would bring a “a new sense of cultural co-operation” following years of anger.
However, some have expressed concern that accepting the items on loan could be seen as acceptance of the UK’s ownership of the contested items.
Most of the items were taken during 19th-century wars between the British and the Asante.
A sword of state and gold badges worn by officials charged with cleansing the soul of the king are among the items to be returned.
The artefacts are seen as a symbol of the Asante royal government and are believed to hold the spirits of former Asante kings.
As for other contested artefacts held by British museums, in the case of the Elgin Marbles, a senior British Museum has source said the museum was “still exploring if there is an arrangement that would allow some of the Parthenon sculptures to travel to Greece”.
It is hoped deals such as these could help provide a solution to former colonial nations requesting the return of their cultural treasures.