The Fowler Museum at the University of California permanently returned seven royal objects to Ghana's Asante King Otumfuo Osei Tutu II on Thursday, February 8. This event takes place on the occasion of its silver jubilee celebrations.
International pressure is increasing for European and American museums and institutions to return art objects looted by former colonial powers to African states. The treasures, including gold jewelry, an ornamental chair and an elephant's tail whip, were presented during a lavish celebration at Manhyia Palace in the town of Kumasi in the southern Ashanti region.
Otumfuo Osei Tutu II said he hoped the return of the artifacts would unite the Asante people, one of Ghana's major ethnic groups. “This return confirms what happened so many years ago when the British attacked us and took our treasures. Let us remain united to bring peace and development to the kingdom,” declared the king who is celebrating 25 years of his accession to the throne.
Advisor to the Asante King, Ivor Agyeman Duah, highlighted the cultural and historical significance of these items. “These returned artifacts are not just objects, they are sacred symbols of our history, which embody the resilience and richness of Asante culture. Their return signifies a crucial moment of reconciliation and pride for our kingdom,” Duah told AFP.
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The event, held ahead of the 150th anniversary of the Anglo-Asante War of 1874, brought together a wide range of participants, from traditional rulers to politicians, clergy and diplomats, all decked out in traditional attire red and black symbolizing the state of mourning. The returned objects have been part of the Fowler Museum collection since 1965 and will be exhibited at Manhyia Palace.
Unlike other institutions, the museum has not imposed any conditions on the returned objects, leaving it to the discretion of their recipients to decide on their future use, whether for exhibitions in museums, treasures from palaces or public celebrations. Ghanaian historian Osei-Bonsu Safo-Kantanka told AFP that "this is a special moment for the Asante people because it strengthens the bond between us and our ancestors."
This gesture follows the announcement on January 25 by the British Museum and the Victoria and Albert Museum in London to lend gold and silver objects looted from the Ashanti kingdom of Ghana for six years.