Asantehene leads discussions with British Museum over regalia taken from Ashantis
The Asantehene Otumfuo, Osei Tutu II last Thursday held discussions with the leadership of The British Museum about regalia items taken from the Ashanti, particularly after the Battle of Amoaful or The Ashanti War of 1874 with the British.
As part of his working visit to London, he also requested areas of contemporary cultural cooperation in the management and technical assistance with the Manhyia Palace Museum.
The Museum Director, the German art historian, Dr Hartwig Fischer, the Deputy Director; Dr Jonathan Williams and the Head of the Africa Department and Curator, Sam Nixon and Julie Hudson welcomed the Asantehene who later explained that the Manhyia Museum which is undergoing major restructuring and expansion is a living one and profit-making.
It needed, like all major museums, other collections to occasionally strengthen patronage and growth.
This he said, was notwithstanding the laws of antiquity in Britain even as long-time negotiations continued.
Dr Fischer who led the BM team in discussions described the visit as an august one and would work towards the Asantehene’s wishes through the structured laws.
A previous MOU would be reviewed on time for the loaning of items for the Asantehene’s silver jubilee in Kumasi next year.
The Museum also agreed to study and work on a technical framework by two of the Asantehene’s advisors: the former Keeper of Ethnography at the BM and previous Professor of History and Vice Principal of the University of Glasgow, Malcolm McLeod.
He had in 1994 led the establishment of the Manhyia Palace Museum. The co-technician of the framework is historian, museum economist and development specialist, Ivor Agyeman-Duah.
The technical discussions which started this week in London would also lead to visitations to the Manhyia Palace Museum, object identification at the Museum for loan agreements and other legal implications as the British Museum Act does not allow permanent removal of items from its collection.
The BM led by Dr Fischer would also be involved in the Manhyia Palace Museum reopening and anniversary.
The Asantehene was given a private tour of the current exhibition, Luxury and Power- Persia to Greece which centres on the Greco-Persian Wars.
On behalf of the Palace, the Daily Graphic has also confirmed that Mr Agyeman-Duah continued discussions with the Director of the world’s leading art and design institution, the Victoria and Albert Museum’s (V&A), Dr Tristram Hunt in London.
A bilateral agreement with the Palace would be signed before February 2024.
The V&A which has a collection of Asante regalia is developing a programme concept for next February which would mark the 150th year of the 1874 War. A group of Ghanaian and British artists would jointly be engaged in a memorial in London.
Next year also marks the 100th anniversary of the return of exile from Seychelles of Asantehene Nana Agyeman Prempeh I after twenty-seven years.
In 1976, the late Asantehene Otumfuo Opoku Ware II on the centenary of 1874 made a request (return of regalia) to the Director of the BM Sir John Pope-Hennessy who together with the Trustees later organized the major exhibition, Asante Kingdom of Gold which was opened by Opoku Ware II and the Duke of Gloucester which also travelled to the Natural History Museum in New York.
The BM as part of the cooperation with Manhyia at the time, trained museum managers in Kumasi and Ghana which has today led to the major BM International programme in Africa.