Artifacts Looted From Ethiopia Go Home After 150 Years+ In Heartwarming Reunion

Image via Ethiopian Embassy UK

More than a century and a half after British troops looted and stole treasure from Ethiopia following the Battle of Maqdala in 1868, it has been returned to the country’s ambassador in the UK. These include a Bible, crosses, and an Imperial shield.

The Scheherazade Foundation, a British nonprofit, had purchased these objects earlier this summer with the intention to return them. The handover ceremony took place at London’s Athenaeum Club on Wednesday.

“We are deeply, deeply moved tonight to be handing back to Ethiopia a very small but incredibly significant part of a treasure that was taken by the British 153 years ago,” Tahir Shah, the foundation’s founder, said at the ceremony. “Our thinking is not to punish the British, but to heal old wounds.”

Some of these were pulled from the Bridport auction house following complaints from the embassy, and the Foundation purchased them for a few hundred pounds. The second set, as reported by the Art Newspaper, were acquired for a few thousand pounds from a Belgian collector.

Image via Ethiopian Embassy UK

Image via Ethiopian Embassy UK

The artifacts aren’t just decorative pieces or trinkets to adorn a mantelpiece with. As stated by ambassador Teferi Melesse Desta at the ceremony, “Maqdala was not an adventure, [or] a heroic tale of conquest to fill the pages of a Victorian diary… it was a wound.”

“This means Maqdala objects, treasures, or artifacts are memoriams. They allow us to mourn and process what we have lost.”

Dr Alula Pankhurst, member of Ethiopia’s National Heritage Restitution Committee, notes in the embassy’s press release that the trove recently returned was “the single most significant heritage restitution in Ethiopia’s history.” It’s almost equivalent to all the private collection returns since the battle.

“It is my hope and determination that this will pave the way for further restitution initiatives,” he continues, with particular mention to the remains of Prince Alemayehu in Windsor Chapel, and the holy Tabot Arks of the Covenant in the British Museum.

To still retain looted objects from other countries, Pankhurst states, is “becoming increasingly anachronistic, irrelevant and embarrassing.”

Speaking on the occasion at a reception held at The Athenaeum Club, Ambassador Teferi thanked The Scheherazade Foundation for their work in acquiring the precious items and renewed calls for museums, collectors & holders of #Maqdala1868 heritage to return them to #Ethiopia.


— Ethiopian Embassy UK | #EthiopiaInUK 🇪🇹🇬🇧 (@EthioEmbassyUK) September 8, 2021

The son of Ethiopia brandishes his forefathers' shield returned to the motherland after 153 years by @scheherazadeThe Foundation leading the way bridging cultures for world #heritage #restitution @lemnsissay@ethioembassyUK @ukinEthiopia @openrestitution
@artrestitution @artnet

— alula pankhurst (@alulapan) September 8, 2021

[via Artnet News, image via Ethiopian Embassy UK]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Follow Me

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.