British museums to return looted royal Ghana treasures

The British Museum and the Victoria and Albert Museum will give back gold and silver artifacts looted during colonial times from Ghana's Asante royal court, the museums and the palace said on Thursday.

The Ghana agreement for a long-term loan of the items comes as international momentum grows for museums and institutions to restore African artifacts from former colonial powers Britain, France, Germany and Belgium.

The returning items include a 300-year-old Mponponso sword used in Asantehene swearing-in ceremonies, a gold peace pipe and cast gold soul-washers' badges, among other treasures.

The artifacts were taken after the third Anglo-Asante War in 1874 and include a total of 32 items, 15 from the British Museum and 17 from the Victoria and Albert Museum, which are both in London.

They will be displayed in Kumasi, the seat of the Asantehene kingdom, at the Manhyia Palace Museum for up to six years, the royal palace said.

"Items of gold and silver regalia associated with the Asante royal court will be displayed in Kumasi later this year as part of a long-term loan commitment by the British Museum and the Victoria and Albert Museum," the museums said in a joint statement.

"Many of these items will be seen in Ghana for the first time in 150 years."

The repatriation coincides with three milestones in the Ashanti kingdom: the 150th anniversary of the 1874 war, the centenary celebration marking the return of one king, Asantehene Agyeman Prempeh I, from exile after he was banished, and the silver jubilee of the current king, Asantehene Osei Tutu II.

It comes after almost half a century of discussions between Manhyia palace, especially with the British Museum.

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