Asantehene leads discussions with The British Museum in London

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As part of his working visit to London, the Asantehene Otumfuo Osei Tutu II last Thursday held discussions with the leadership of The British Museum (BM) about regalia items taken from Ashanti, particularly after the Battle of Amoaful or The Ashanti War of 1874 with the British. He also requested for areas of contemporary cultural cooperation in management and technical assistance with the Manhyia Palace Museum.

The BM Director – the German art historian Dr. Hartwig Fischer, Deputy Director Dr. Jonathan Williams, and the Head of Africa Department and Curator, Sam Nixon and Julie Hudson had welcomed the Asantehene who later explained that the Manhyia Museum, which is undergoing major restructuring and expansion, is a living and profit-making museum. It needed, like all major museums, other collections to occasionally strengthen patronage and growth. This he said, was notwithstanding the laws of antiquity in Britain even as long-time negotiations continued.

Dr. Fischer, who led the BM team in discussions, described the visit as an august one and would work toward the Asantehene’s wishes through the structured laws. A previous MoU would be reviewed on time for loaning of items for the Asantehene’s silver jubilee in Kumasi next year.

The BM also agreed to study and work on a technical framework by two of Asantehene’s advisors:  the former Keeper of Ethnography at the BM and previously Professor of History and Vice Principal of the University of Glasgow, Malcolm McLeod. He had, in 1994, led the establishment of the Manhyia Palace Museum. The co-technician of the framework is historian, museum economist and development specialist, Ivor Agyeman-Duah.

The technical discussions, which started this week in London, would also lead to visitations to the Manhyia Palace Museum, object identification at the BM for loan agreements and other legal implications as the British Museum Act does not allow permanent removal of items from its collection.

The BM, led by Dr. Fischer, would also be involved in the Manhyia Palace Museum reopening and anniversary.

The Asantehene was given a private tour of the current exhibition, Luxury and Power – Persia to Greece, which centres on the Greco-Persian Wars.

On behalf of the Palace, the Daily Graphic has also confirmed that Mr. Agyeman-Duah continued discussions with the director of the world leading art and design institution, the Victoria and Albert Museum’s (V&A), Dr. Tristram Hunt in London.

A bilateral agreement with the Palace would be signed before February 2024. The V&A, which has a collection of Asante regalia, is developing a programme concept for next February which would mark the 150th year of the 1874 War. A group of Ghanaian and British artists would jointly be engaged in a memorial in London.

Next year also marks the 100th anniversary of the return of exile from Seychelles of Asantehene Nana Agyeman Prempeh I, after twenty-seven years.

In 1976, the late Asantehene Otumfuo Opoku Ware II, on the centenary of the 1874, made a request (return of regalia) to the Director of the BM – Sir John Pope-Hennessy – who, together with the Trustees, later organised the major exhibition Asante Kingdom of Gold, which was opened by Opoku Ware II and the Duke of Gloucester; which also travelled to the Natural History Museum in New York. The BM, as part of the cooperation with Manhyia at the time, trained museums managers in Kumasi and Ghana which has today led to the major BM international programme in Africa.

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