The Asante gold regalia that were stolen by the British Museum during the colonial era will soon be returned to their rightful owners.
As a gesture of goodwill, they are returning the decorations they stole from the Benin and Asante kingdoms, two formidable foes of their empire’s.
The Asante gold regalia will be returned to Ghana’s Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A) after its director, Tristram Hunt, recently visited the country. These objects were looted in 1874 during a reprisal attack by the British.
The world’s attention is currently focused on the repatriation of Benin bronzes to Nigeria from museums in Europe and the United States, but it’s possible that artifacts from the Asante kingdom are just as significant.
- 105 artifacts, including the largest known historical piece of gold work produced outside of Egypt, King Kofi Karikari’s Gold Head.
- A significant ceremonial bowl that was displayed outside the royal tomb.
- Ram’s head in gold.
- A beautiful gold pectoral soul disc in the shape of a flower, worn by priests engaged in the ritual purifying of the king’s soul, is one of the 13 pieces of Asante Court regalia.
The British Conquer Asante
Tensions with the neighboring Asante kingdom escalated after the British colony of the Gold Coast was enlarged in 1872. In January of 1874, British forces showed up in Kumasi, the Asante capital.
Kofi Karikari’s (Asantehene) palace was demolished and robbed by Queen Victoria’s army. They then demanded 50,000 ounces of gold, ostensibly to cover the costs of the punitive attack.
When the Asante king’s gold regalia were stolen, so too were the symbols of his administration. Tensions remained for a long time, and in 1896 and 1900, military operations resulted in the looting of even more goods.
Manhyia Palace Museum or the National Museum?
As people react to the news, the topic of where to permanently house the returned gold regalia has come up, with some suggesting the Ghana National Museum and others favoring the Manhyia Palace Museum.
Many maintain that the objects are authentic Asante relics and, as such, should be housed at the Manhyia Palace Museum.
With the return of the stolen regalia from the Aban Palace during Asantehene Kofi Karikari’s administration in 1874, 1876, and 1896, the Manhyia Palace Museum, which is currently undergoing an expansion, will likely reopen to the public.