The UK will return Ghana’s stolen “crown jewels”

After stealing them from the Asante king’s court for 150 years, the UK is returning some of Ghana’s “crown jewels” home. According to the BBC, among the 32 objects returned under long-term loan agreements is a gold peace pipe. Fifteen of the seventeen pieces being lent by the Victoria & Albert Museum (V&A) come from the British Museum. The head negotiator for Ghana expressed his expectation for “a new sense of cultural co-operation” following generations of hostility.  Since it is illegal for several major institutions in the UK, like the V&A and the British Museum, to permanently return contentious items from their collections, loan agreements like this one are considered as a means of enabling artifacts to return to their countries of origin.

However, some nations claiming possession of contested artifacts worry such loans could be interpreted as an endorsement of UK ownership. The BBC was informed by Tristram Hunt, director of the V&A, that the gold pieces of court regalia are comparable to “our Crown Jewels”. Gold badges worn by officials tasked with purging the king’s soul and a sword of state are among the objects to be borrowed; the majority were captured during the Asante-British conflicts in the 19th century.

When museums house artifacts that had their roots in military campaigns and acts of war or looting, Mr. Hunt stated that “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.” Mr. Hunt emphasized that the new cultural alliance “is not restitution by the back door,” which means Ghana will not regain permanent ownership through it.

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