Asanteman, led by the Asantehene Otumfuo Osei Tutu II, has received the royal golden artifacts which were looted during the Sagrenti War of 1874 at a grand ‘kuntukuni’ durbar at Manhyia, Kumasi.
The seven items, about 400,000 ounces of gold worth £2billion, were presented to Otumfuo Osei Tutu II by a five-member delegation from the Fowler Museum, University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) led by Director of the museum, Silvia Forni.
In a speech during the durbar – which saw very high dignitaries in attendance – Otumfuo underscored the significance of the artifacts.
He noted that even though they commemorate the day as ‘kuntukuni’ (where everyone wears black) to signify mourning, it is also a happy day as at least seven of the looted artifacts have found their way back home.
He expressed belief that by April, the remaining 32 artifacts at the British Museum would have arrived in the country.
“Today is a day of mourning and rejoicing at the same time. We were attacked by the British without any provocation. They stole from us several golden items. According to Prof. Thomas McCaskie, the looted golden items are worth four hundred thousand ounces of gold. Today, it is worth £2 billion. It has finally found its way back into the country. Asante wasn’t part of the early decision to fight for independence because we were our own authority.
“We are here today to commemorate this sad day in the history of Asante where the British ransacked the Asantehene’s Palace and looted some golden ornaments. We are encouraged by the return of seven of these artifacts which over time found its way to America, Carlifornia museum,” the traditional leader said.
He added: “During my first year as Asantehene, I was invited by Queen Elizabeth I to Buckingham Palace where I saw these ornaments but due to the laws, the artifacts couldn’t be returned to their rightful place. The British government has decided to return our artifacts on loan for three years and would be renewed again if need be. We want everyone to know we had very important possessions in Asante. We have decided to adhere to their rules,” he said.
Leader of the delegation that brought the artifacts, who is also the Director, Fowler Museum, Silvia Forni, expressed appreciation to Otumfuo for his decision to make replicas for the museum.
“We are here today to present to His Majesty seven art works which were looted from the palace in 1874. The history of these artworks has become evidence to us. We knew that these objects need to come back to your Majesty and the Asante people. These works are now here and forever returned to Asante people. They are also a testament of the long tradition, beautiful artistry and craftsmanship that has made Ashanti arts famous throughout the world.
“We are delighted to have returned these items to its right home. As we present these items today, it is our hope this would not be the end of this story but the beginning of a new relationship. At the Fowler Museum, we will no longer have these wonderful pieces. We are honoured by your offer to have replicas made so that we will however have the opportunity to tell our visitors a better story in our gallery. We look forward to collaborating with the palace museum in years to come,” Ms. Forni said.