Returning home to stolen Ethiopian artifacts – the World Peace Organization
After months of negotiations, 13 stolen Ethiopian items were finally returned home. The collection includes a ceremonial crown, an imperial shield, a set of silver-stamped horn goblets, a handwritten prayer book, crosses and a necklace.
Most of the artifacts were seized by British forces in 1868 during the Battle of Maqdala. Teferi Meles, Ambassador of Ethiopia to the United Kingdom (UK) said that “there are many artifacts that were looted in Maqdala… We weren’t able to bring them all back, but this is the first times in the country’s history to report looted artifacts in this amount. Officials say it is the biggest act of restitution in Ethiopia’s history, say Reuters.
The artefacts have largely been kept in private collections since they were removed from Ethiopia. In June, a private seller descended from a British soldier who fought in Maqdala put them up for auction. A private non-profit group, the Scheherazade Foundation, purchased the collection with the intention of donating it to the Ethiopian government. The items were handed over to Ethiopia’s Ambassador to the UK at a ceremony in September. The artifacts have arrived in Addis Ababa and will be on display at the National Museum or donated to the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, according to Smithsonian magazine.
The Ethiopian government is still negotiating with Britain over the return of other stolen items, including sacred wooden and stone tabots, replicas of the Ark of the Covenant and which depict the remains of Prince Alemayehu according to World time. The Ethiopian government wants all Maqdala artifacts currently held in the UK to be returned. In recent years, several European countries, including the UK, have come under fire for refusing to return stolen artifacts, with many citing legislation that prohibits them from returning the collections. Some, however, are slowly cooperating and coordinating the return of important cultural artifacts. For example, in early November, nearly 30 royal treasures were returned to Benin after being seized during the reign of France over 130 years ago.
According to the Ethiopian Minister of Tourism, Nasise Challa, “the history of the ancient civilization of our country, the artefacts, the imprints of indigenous knowledge, the culture… were looted during the war and taken out illegally. It is imperative that artifacts that have been stolen not only from Ethiopia, but from any nation colonized by a foreign power, be returned to their country of origin. The international community must put pressure on the nations that hold stolen objects. They must be returned to their rightful homes because, as Teferi Meles said, “if there is no treasure, it means there is no history; if there is no history, there is no nation.