The Senior Curator of African Arts in the Fowler Museum at the University of California in Los Angeles, Dr Erica Jones has approached the seat of the Asante Kingdom with a conversation about returning a seven-piece artefact taken from the then Palace of the Kingdom during the Sir Garnet Wolseley War also known as the Sagrenti War.
In a meeting with the occupant of the Golden Stool, Otumfuo Osei Tutu II, Dr Jones presented a folder containing pictures of some collections of the museum to the King.
Speaking on her behalf, Prof Kwesi Ampene, the Chair of the Department of Music at Tufts University and a Fellow of the Ghana Academy of Arts and Sciences who led her to the His Majesty said the items- which are currently in the Fowler Museum- were donated by Wellcome Trust in 1964.
He said Dr Jones contacted him in May about the intention to return them to their original home. This was followed by his visit to America to further the conversation. He later returned to Ghana to inform the Palace about the development.
In furtherance of this, Dr Jones who is in Ghana met His Majesty on July 21, 2023, to initiate processes to return the items.
Describing the items as “unrightfully” taken goods, she told Otumfuo it would be an honour to return them and hoped the process will be smooth and easy. She said she had come to Ghana with the intent of knowing the processes involved to get them returned from the Palace’s perspective.
She noted that the University will be informed as well to get their processes.
Ahead of their return to the country, there is a plan by the Museum to hold an exhibition which would have His Majesty as the guest of honour in Los Angeles where the stories behind the pieces would be told.
Otumfuo welcomed the news as a good one and commended Dr Jones and her team for their willingness to return what isn’t theirs.
He said he would have loved to have the pieces returned home just in time for the 150th anniversary of the Sir Garnet Wolseley war in February 2024, nevertheless, he appreciated the decision.
He said he has initiated steps to get back all the gold artefacts which were “ransacked” from the old Palace of the kingdom in Kumasi by the British soldiers during the war. He said some of the Museums have shown willingness to return the items whiles others have shown otherwise.
“It was no fault of ours that someone came to ransack our things but thank you very much,” he added.
Otumfuo after going through the collections in the file and identifying his own stated that there are adequate spaces in his renovated museum- the Manhyia Palace Museum- to house all the collections.
In May while on a trip in the United Kingdom, His Majesty held a meeting with the executives of the British Museum led by Dr Hartwig Fischer to discuss the return of the artefacts taken from the Asantes during the War of 1874.
According to His Majesty, his conversation with them ended inconclusively as he noticed they have no power to release the item per the British Museum Act 1963.
In an interview with BBC, the British Museum said it was weighing its options to lend them to King for the anniversary in February 2024 as that is the only mandate it has when it comes to offloading artefacts.