Ancient Ethiopian artifacts are reportedly headed back to their motherland from the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, The New York Times reports. The items were taken from the African country by British soldiers 150 years ago, and now the museum has decided to lend the country some of the pieces which include a crown, a chalice, a wedding dress and jewelry among other treasures.
The pieces form part of the museum’s exhibit titled “Maqdala 1868,” which are displayed in efforts to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the battle of Maqdala between Ethiopia and the British. The project was in conjunction with the Ethiopian embassy in London.
“A clear statement to the ambassador, saying that if Ethiopia is interested in pursuing the long-term loan of the Maqdala items we would stand ready to assist,” said the museum’s director Tristram Hunt via the Art Newspaper.
Ethiopia’s several attempts to regain back its artifacts have been denied. Only 10 of the 498 items from the Maqdala time period have been returned, according to the Association For the Return of the Maqdala.
Reportedly, 80 items have been seized from the museum. Yet museum administrators think it’s a good idea to keep the artifacts because people across the globe have more access to them. “There is a great public benefit to material from Ethiopia being represented within the context of the British Museum’s world collection where it is accessible to millions of international visitors a year,” said a spokeswoman for the board of trustees.
Returning these cultural items to its original home is crucial for a country to preserve its culture. The argument also interweaves with the cultural appropriation debate. For instance, in recent years, France has recognized the need to return African items back to the continent. Reportedly, President Emmanuel Macron of France said giving Africa back their cultural items is of “top priority.”