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Repatriation of antiquities to sub-Saharan Africa: the agony and the ecstasy.


The end of colonisation has witnessed the repatriation of cultural objects from the former colonial powers to the former colonised countries. Examples include the return of objects by Belgium to the Democratic Republic of Congo, by the Netherlands to Indonesia, and by Australia and New Zealand to Papua New Guinea. But having regard to the scale of colonial plunder in sub-Saharan Africa, what has been returned is just the tip of the iceberg. In this paper there are case studies of returns to sub-Saharan Africa including: the Lion of Judah statue, Ethiopian Tabots, the Aksum Obelisk, the Zimbabwe Bird, Vigango Wooden Memorials, the Makonde Mask, the Afo-A-Kom sculpture and El Negro. The paper argues that African countries seeking the return of cultural objects must have the endurance of the long distance runner as typified by the persistence of Greece for the return of the Parthenon Sculptures. It is not for nothing that the Greeks gave us the marathon race. They are practising it in this affair. Negotiations for the return of the Makonde Mask to Tanzania lasted twenty years. The stolen vigango memorials returned from the United States after 22 years. The statue of the Lion of Judah was in Rome for 30 years. The Obelisk of Aksum, was returned after almost 70 years. The Zimbabwe Bird was returned almost 100 years following its plunder.

El Negro was away from Africa for 170 years. The point will be made that the former colonial powers and other rich European countries, particularly their museum professionals are loath to part with anything even if they remain locked up in stores and warehouses. The museum professionals first canvassed retention through the idea of the so-called 'universal museum when that started to unravel, they are now talking about travelling exhibitions that will never get to Africa. Finally, it is lamented that too many national authorities and museum professionals in Africa have been almost criminally negligent in failing to pursue the repatriation of expropriated, stolen or illegally exported antiquities. A Nigerian head of the National Museums attended the opening ceremony of an exhibition where obviously looted Nigerian objects formed part of

Faculty of Law, University of Ibadan, Nigeria. Revised and expanded version of paper presented at the 3rd International Conference of Experts on the Return of Cultural Property. Athens - Ancient Olympia, 23-26 Oct. 2013. the exhibition. In another instance, a Permanent Secretary of Nigeria s Ministry of Culture wrote the foreword to a book featuring looted Nigerian antiquities, and another head of Nigeria's National Museums contributed an article to the same book. They are compromised and therefore incapable of decisive action in these matters. Greed and corruption make them enter into untenable and iniquitous agreements. They thus provide ammunition to those who refuse to consider return on any ground whatsoever.


In 1897, the British invaded the Benin Kingdom in today's Nigeria, and the palace of the Oba (King) where some tens of thousands of works of art in wood, ivory and bronze were kept, was looted and eventually burnt down. The King was banished. The thousands of art pieces involved were first removed to London by the British punitive expedition as spoils of war, from where they were dispersed throughout the world. When a national museum was planned for Benin City in 1968, the authorities of the Department of Antiquities were faced with the problem of finding exhibits that would be shown to reflect the position that Benin holds in the world of art history. A request was made through ICOM (International Council of Museums) at its General Assembly in Paris in 1968, appealing for donations of one or two pieces from those museums which have large stocks of Benin art works. The resolution was modified to make it read like a general appeal for return or restitution and then adopted. When the Nigeria delegation returned to the country it circulated the adopted resolution to the Embassies and High Commissions of countries known to have large Benin holdings but no reaction was received from any quarters. The museum was therefore reduced to displaying lesser objects and mere casts and photographs of objects that once belonged to Benin. (1)

This happened before the adoption of the 1970 UNESCO Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property which came into force in 1972. A year after the coming into operation of the 1970 Convention another momentous event took place at the United Nations itself. The first United Nations General Assembly resolution was passed on the subject of cultural property. 'Restitution of works of art to countries victims of expropriation' (UNGA Resolution 3187 of 1973). The twelve States that sponsored the resolution were all African. The cold shoulder given to the Nigerian request also occurred prior to the establishment in 1978 of the UNESCO Intergovernmental Committee for Promoting the Return of Cultural Property to its Countries of Origin or its Restitution in Case of Illicit Appropriation which convened for the first time in 1980. It was also in 1978, that the then Director General of UNESCO, Amadou Mahtar M'Bow, himself an African, issued his searing 'A Plea for the Return of an Irreplaceable Cultural Heritage to those who Created it.' He lamented that "the vicissitudes of history" had robbed many peoples' "priceless portion" and "irreplaceable masterpieces" of their inheritance.


The 1937 plunder of the Aksum Obelisk by Italian troops who dismantled it and took it to Italy as war booty is well known; less publicised in the public imagination is the pulling down and shipping to Rome of the Statue of the Lion of Judah despite the fact that it weighed several tons. It was then erected next to the large white Vittorio Emmanuel Monument in time for the fourth anniversary of the declaration of the New (Fascist) Italian Empire. According to Professor Richard Pankhurst, Mussolini, from the outset, was determined to remove all symbols of Ethiopia's historic independence. He gave personal orders for the removal of two of Addis Abba's principal statues, one of Emperor Menilek who defeated the Italians in 1896, and the other of the Lion of Judah. He later gave orders for the looting, and shipping to Rome, of one of the great obelsiks of Aksum. The Lion of Judah is the personal symbol of former Emperor Haile Salassie I. This monument was one of several unveiled for the Emperor's coronation in 1930. It was therefore removed to Rome as a sign of submission and humiliation of the Emperor. Although the statue is not spectacular, it has great symbolic value. The lion is the symbol of heroism and resistance to Ethiopians. Following the 1961 visit of Emperor Haile Salassie to Italy, it was repatriated to Ethiopia in 1967 after lengthy negotiations and was re-erected on the original site on the same month and day it was first inaugurated. It had been away for 30 years.


Carl Maunch, a German geologist and explorer was in 1871 the first European to visit and write about Great Zimbabwe. This monument was embellished by stone birds. There are eight known soapstone birds, but another account mentioned ten. In 1889, Willie Posselt, a south Atncan adventurer looted four soapstones. In 1891 four and a half stone birds were found by Theodore Bent, the antiquarian commissioned by the British South Africa Company to excavate Great Zimbabwe; these were deposited in the South African Museum in Cape Town. They were returned to Zimbabwe at independence in 1981. Cecil Rhodes, the founding father of Rhodesia, took a keen interest in the birds, and most of them passed through his hands. There are suspicions that the lower part of this particular bird also went through his home. It is not clear when and how the bottom half of the bird left Great Zimbabwe. The top half of the bird was found on the site by Richard Hall, a British archaeologist, and it was handed down to the local authorities. Around 1907 the lower half of the bird was sold to Karl Axenfeld, of a Missionary Museum in Berlin, and then sold to the Museum fur Volkerkunde in Berlin (now known as the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Ethnologisches Museum). When Soviet forces occupied East Germany at the end of the Second World War, the bird was taken from Berlin to the Soviet Elnion, where it remained until after the Cold War, when it was returned to Museum Volkerkunde in Berlin. In 2000 the Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation --which managed the collection of the Museum--under pressure from the German Federal Government agreed to return the fragment to Zimbabwe. In May 2003 the bottom half of the bird in Germany was handed back to Zimbabwe. "A unique piece of Zimbabwe's cultural heritage has been returned after being looted almost 100 years ago". Thus the BBC World News started its account of the return. The ruins which gave their name to modern Zimbabwe, cover some 1,800 acres and are the largest ancient stone construction south of the Sahara. We shall return to the condition under which it was returned later.

The Return of the Axum Obelisk (4)

The Axum Obelisk was stolen by Italian troops in 1937 and taken to Rome. The failure to repatriate it was a violation of the express stipulation in the Treaty of Peace with Italy of 1947 to return "within eighteen months" all cultural property looted from Ethiopia. It was in 2005 that the Obelisk was finally returned after nearly 70 years in exile. The Axum Obelisk is regarded as one of Ethiopia's national religious treasures. The City of Axum, a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1980, remains the holiest of cities for Ethiopian Orthodox Christians. The 1,700-year old stone Obelisk arrived in Addis Ababa to a rapturous welcome. Thousands of people lined the streets to see what they consider an important symbol of their identity restored to them. Many commentators noted that the return was accomplished after more than half a century of negotiation and broken promises. Professor Tullio Scovazzi of the University of Milano-Biocca, has observed that the belated return of the Axum Obelisk is an outstanding example of the progressive development of international law relating to the non-impoverishment of the cultural heritage of other countries, to the integrity of cultural sites and to the non-exploitation of countries subject to colonial rule. (5) The fact remains however, as he concedes, that Italy ignored two international treaties of 1947 and 1956 (6) for the return of the monument thus flouting a basic principle of international law--pacta sunt servanda --agreements must be kept. Besides, Professor Richard Pankhurst, an expert on Ethiopian history was reported by BBC News as complaining that "Italy still has not returned two major things--one is the national archives and the other is former Emperor Haile Selassie's pre-war plane." (7)


In 1966 the Afo-A-Kom, a wooden sculpture sacred to the Kom people, was stolen from Nkumba House, Laikom, a village of the Kom Kingdom in the north part of Cameroon. In 1973 a Kom scholar recognised the Afo-A-Kom at Dartmouth College where it was on loan from the Furman Gallery of New York. The man who stole the statue sold it in a town in east Cameroon for US$100. It was then exported and later sold to an American art dealer, who in turn sold it to the Furman Gallery. Cameroon officials, upon learning it was on exhibition at Dartmouth, demanded the restitution of the sculpture. Aaron Furman who operated the Furman gallery initially refused to give it back, but then consented to its return after a group of institutions and businessmen agreed to compensate him. It has been speculated that his initial refusal was motivated by the fact that he wanted to profit from his investment. It was reported that he put the statue on sale for US$60,000, whereas he had bought it for US$25,000. Eventually, Furman informed the King of Kom that "arrangements for the permanent return of the Afo-A-Kom to its home land have been under discussion." As a result Furman sold the statue to Lawrence Gussman (businessman and president of the Schweitzer Hospital in Gabon), who even flew to Cameroon to return the Afo-A-Com.


In 1984, a Makonde Mask was stolen together with sixteen other objects during a break-in at the National Museum of Tanzania in Dar Es Salaam. The theft was reported to all relevant authorities at national and international levels including the Tanzanian police, INTERPOL and the International Council of Museums (ICOM). In 1990 an Italian Professor, Enrico Castelli of the University of Perugia, who had done research work on Makonde masks at the National Museum of Tanzania in Dar Es Salaam, visited the Barbier-Mueller Museum in Geneva, Switzerland and identified the Makonde Mask as the one that had been stolen in 1984. He informed the Barbier-Mueller Museum that a Makonde Mask in its collections might have been removed from the Dar Es Salaam Museum. The Barbier-Mueller Museum immediately transmitted the information to ICOM and reported that the object had been purchased in Paris in September 1985.

The Barbier-Mueller Museum thereafter initiated steps for a possible return of the mask to Tanzania. In 2002 the Barbier-Mueller Museum formally indicated conditions under which it would be prepared to transfer the ownership of the Makonde Mask to the United Republic of Tanzania. The parties however could not reach a compromise over the issue of ownership of the object. In 2006 negotiations stopped after Tanzania filed a request for the return of the mask with the secretariat of the UNESCO Intergovernmental Committee for Promoting the Return of Cultural Property to its Countries of Origin or Restitution in case of Illicit Appropriation. Having made no headway by the referral to the Intergovernmental Committee, in August 2009 Tanzania informed the Barbier-Mueller Museum of its decision to accept the conditions proposed by the Swiss Museum in 2002. Finally on 6th November 2009, a governmental delegation of Tanzania met the representatives of the Barbier-Mueller Museum in Geneva to conduct good faith discussions and negotiations which paved the way for the donation of the Makonde Mask to Tanzania by an agreement signed between the parties on 10th May 2010.

The Daily News of Tanzania of 14th May 2010 reported that one of the conditions imposed by the Barbier-Mueller Museum was that Tanzania compensated them for storage charges for the time the piece was with them before it could be returned. They also wanted to maintain the ownership, even after it was returned to Tanzania. "All these helped delay the time it took to clear the mask and have it brought home."


After 170 years the body of an African of reputed Tswana origin who died in 1830 returned to Botswana. Historians agree that his body was first taken to France by two brothers, Jules and Eduoard Verraux who had desecrated his grave and stolen the body on the night that it was buried. The body was later displayed in a Paris shop belonging to the brothers. In 1916 it was sold to Francisco Darder, the Spanish naturalist and curator who later bequeathed the remains to the town of Banyoles, north of Barcelona, Spain. The stuffed body was put on display at the Musee Darder de Banyoles. There it was on exhibition for decades. Then in December 1991, on the eve of the 1992 Barcelona Olympics, Dr Alphonse Arcelin, a Spanish doctor of Haitian origin and African ancestry who practised in Banyoles began to complain that the display of El Negro was an affront to humanity and to black people. Dr Arcelin pressed on with the issue. Federico Mayor, the then Director General of UNESCO, met the Mayor of Banyoles. Later when Kofi Annan became Secretary-General of United Nations, he too became interested and spoke with the Mayor of Banyoles. In 1997 the issue was discussed in both the UN and OAU. Later in March of that year, the item was removed from the Darder Museum. The Botswana Government offered to accept and bury the body of the man thought to be 27 years old when he died of natural causes. The fight to get El Negro removed and buried in Africa met with resistance. It is reported that when Arcelin started his campaign local Banyoles residents wore T-shirts with slogans such as 'Keep El Negro' and 'Banyoles loves you El Negro'. Postcards and small sculptured copies of the exhibit were made and put on sale. The outrage eventually forced the Mayor to remove the body from public display in 1998 and the Spanish Government agreed to pay for its repatriation to Botswana. At last on 4th October 2000, the body of El Negro arrived in Gaborone, the capital of Botswana, and was given a full burial in front of hundreds of local dignitaries and foreign diplomats a day later at Tsholofelo Park in Broadhurst, Gaborone. His grave is gazetted by the Botswana National Museum as a National Monument.


While it was the lifeless body of El Negro that was displayed in a museum, in the case of Sarah Baartman it was a living human person who was shamelessly exhibited in London and Paris in the second decade of the nineteenth century as an object of leering and abuse. She was born in what is now Eastern Cape of South Africa in 1789 to a Khoisan (Khoikhoi) family. She became an orphan and was brought to London in 1810. She spent four years in London. She was then moved to Paris, where she continued her degrading round of shows and exhibitions as a 'freak' and a 'scientific curiosity'. Once the Parisians got tired of her show, one account says she was forced to turn to prostitution. Another account shows her as a woman determined to maintain her cultural norms of modesty in spite of her adversity. Although she allowed herself to be painted in the nude she wore a small apron-like garment which concealed her genitalia. She steadfastly refused to remove this even when offered money by one of the attending scientists. She also refused payment to allow scientists to observe her genitalia in spring of 1815.

When Sarah Baartman died at the age of 25 in Paris in 1815, the cause of death was given as 'inflammatory and eruptive sickness', possibly syphilis. George Cuvier conducted an autopsy on Baartman's dead body. A plaster cast of her body was made, her skeleton was then removed and, after removing her brain and genitals, they were pickled and displayed in bottles at Musee de l'Homme (Museum of Man) in Paris. Some 160 years later they were still on display, but were finally removed from public view in 1974. In 1994, then President Nelson Mandela requested that her remains be brought home. Other representations were made, but it took the French Government eight years to pass a bill to allow their small piece of 'scientific curiosity' to be returned to South Africa. In January 2002 Sarah Baartman's remains were returned and buried on 9th August 2002, on South Africa's Women's Day, at Hankey in the Eastern Cape, the area of her birth. Her grave has since been declared a national heritage site.


Between 1904 and 1908 the Herero and Nama citizens of what was then known as German South West Africa (1884-1919) and today's Namibia revolted against tyrannical colonial rule. The Herero started the uprising and were later joined by the Nama. They were mercilessly killed by the German colonial army. Eighty per cent of the Herero people and 50 per cent of the Nama people were killed. The massacres were orchestrated by General Lothar von Trotha who issued an infamous extermination order against the Hereros to the German troops to kill any Herero, armed or not, found within the limits of German colonial territory. Thousands were killed as they fled; out of a reported 80,000, only around 15,000 reached the neighbouring country (today's Botswana). This is considered as the first genocide of the twentieth century. Detained in prison camps, captured Hereros and Namas, died from malnutrition and extreme weather. Dozens were beheaded after their death and their skulls were sent to Germany for research. About 300 were sent between 1909 and 1914. Once in Berlin the skulls were used in research to prove the supposed racial supremacy of European whites over black Africans. They were stored in different scientific institutions in Berlin. The skulls gathered dust in German archives until 2010 when a German reporter uncovered them at the Medical History Museum of the Charite hospital in Berlin, and at Freiburg University in the south west. German researchers believe the skulls belong to eleven people from the Nama ethnic group and nine from the Herero. They are four women, fifteen men and a boy.

In 2008 the matter became a political issue in Namibia following the broadcast of a documentary in Germany on the existence of Namibian skulls in the collections of German scientific institutions. Representatives of the Nama and Herero people petitioned the Government to reclaim the remains from Germany. As a result, Namibia and Germany commenced discussions regarding the return of the remains. On 30th September 2011 the twenty skulls were unconditionally returned by the Charite to the Namibian delegation. An official ceremony was held in Namibia on 5th October 2011 to mark the repatriation of the skulls.


The following account of a return cannot really be called repatriation of an antiquity. It would be more appropriate to refer to it as the return of a relic, a grisly one for that matter. In 1837, Badu Bonsu II of Ahanta in the then Gold Coast (now Ghana) rebelled against the Dutch, and killed several officers, including acting governor Hendrick Tonneboeijer. As usual, the Dutch Government sent an expeditionary force to Ahanta. In the war that followed, the King was captured, sentenced for murder, and hanged. Following the execution, his body was desecrated as a Dutch surgeon decapitated him. The head was taken to the Netherlands, where it was soon lost for more than a century and half. The head was rediscovered in the Leiden University Medical Centre (LUMC) in the Netherlands by Dutch author Arthur Japlin, who had read the account of the head during research for a 1997 novel. Japlin found the head in 2005, stored in formaldehyde at the LUMC. Ghana immediately asked for the return of the King's severed head. In March 2009, Dutch government officials announced that it would be returned to its homeland for proper burial--a promise fulfilled on 23rd July 2009, after a ceremony at The Hague. Members of the Ahanta nationality flew to The Hague and staged a mourning ceremony that included pouring gin libations on the floor of the Foreign Ministry before taking the head back to Ghana.


The Van Rensburg Collection comprises a number of cultural artefacts collected in Botswana by a colonial official who, after the independence of Botswana, relocated with it to South Africa around 1965/1966. It appears that the University of South Africa (UNISA) first took possession of the collection and used it as a teaching aid in its Anthropology Department. It arrived there on 17th April 1971. The collection was then donated to Motsweding FM (a South African Tswana language radio station). The radio station passed on the collection to the Mafikeng Museum, which contacted its Botswana counterpart for the return of the collection to its country of origin. The collection was returned to Botswana in March 2000, and is with the national Museum of Botswana. The collection comprises 166 items. The objects include python skin, drums, spears, bows and arrows, traditional musical bow, leather bag, beads, calabash, witchdoctor's bag, fly whisk, stringed musical instrument (segankure) and reed musical instrument (lexoma). Little is known about the collector Van Rensburg, not even his first name. He is not however Patrick Van Rensburg the educationist and former anti-apartheid activist, and founder of the Brigades Movement in Botswana. (14) The outstanding aspect of the return of the Van Rensburg Collection is the fact that it occurred at the initiative of the Mafikeng Museum ,the holding museum, and without any prompting from Botswana.


A story in the Christian Science Monitor, 2nd March 2006, (15) headlined: 'Theft of Sacred Vigango Angers Kenyan Villagers' tells the story of how memorial totems were increasingly being stolen to fuel western demand for African art. Hundreds of vigango totems have been stolen from rural homesteads and shipped to the United States and Europe. The article cited two American anthropologists who claimed that at least 400 vigango are held in private collections and in at least nineteen museums in the United States. However, central to the belief system surrounding vigango is the prohibition against them ever being moved the Monitor says. Villagers who spend up to twice Kenya's average per capita annual income to make the statues for their dead relatives talk of ill fortune and angry spirits who come visiting after the relics are removed.

Such was the plight of Kache Kalume Mwakiru, an 86-year-old widow who had two vigango erected by her late husband stolen around 1983. Fortunately for the old lady, the two American anthropologists traced the two statues stolen from her to Hampton University Museum in Virginia and Illinois State Museum. Letters firmly requesting the repatriation of the statues were sent to both institutions in February 2006 from officials of the National Museums of Kenya and Mwakiru, who signed with an inked thumbprint. The two museums graciously obliged, and BBC News of 22nd June 2007 reported their return to Mwakiru family.

The New York Times of 26th June 2007 also reported that nine vigango were being returned to Kenya by the daughter of Lewis and Jay Allen who had bought them after learning of their significance to Kenyans. A ceremony at the United Nations the previous day marked the decision. The wooden grave objects had been on display in the Park Avenue apartment of Lewis and Jay Allen. (16)


Paul Bator in 1982 highlighted the fact that import control could be a veritable tool to fight illicit traffic in cultural property. He stated with clarity:

   An illegally imported artifact continues to be a contraband even
   though it penetrated the border, and if it later surfaces in a
   museum or collection, can be seized and repatriated. (17)

Increasingly, the principle which ought to prevail in every civilised country has been the potent tool through which stolen or illegally escavated artefacts are being returned to source countries. Nigeria has been particularly fortunate in recent years in the application of the rule. In 2009, France returned two monoliths which had been interdicted at the border to Nigeria. Also in the same year, according to the Director General of the country's National Commission for Museums and Monuments (NCMM) terracotta effigies were returned from Canada on 24th February 2009. The other items he mentioned are three Ife bronze heads stolen and found in France. (18) In August 2010, five Nok objects were again seized by French Customs in the luggage of a French citizen at Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris and were returned to the Nigerian Government.

On 26th July 2012, officials of United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) returned eleven stolen and looted ten Nok statues and one carved tusk to the Government of Nigeria at the HSI New York office. (19) They were seized by HSI special agents after receiving a tip-off. After an investigation with assistance from French authorities, the Louvre in Paris, Interpol and ICOM (International Council of Museums), HSI special agents determined that the Nok statues were in fact antiquities and not just handicrafts and personal effects as had been disclosed on the importation documents provided to United States authorities. On 29th January 2013 five Nok objects were returned from Paris and handed over to the NCMM by the French Embassy in Nigeria. Also in July 2013 an Esie soapstone was repatriated from Paris and again handed over to the NCMM by the French Embassy. (20)


An article in the Economist of 10th July 1999, captioned 'Let's Have Our Treasure Back, Please', (21) opened with the following account of the plunder of Ethiopia's cultural treasures in 1868:

   It took 15 elephants and 200 mules to carry off the loot from
   Ethiopia's old capital, Maqdala. The brutal sacking of the
   mountain-top city in 1868, Britain's revenge on Emperor Tewodros
   for taking the British consul and a few other Europeans hostage,
   razed the city to the ground. The hostages were released unharmed
   but the battle turned into a massacre and treasure hunt. Tewodros
   committed suicide and British soldiers stripped his body naked for
   souvenirs. They carted off his library and the treasures from a
   Coptic Christian church nearby. For 4 [pounds sterling], Richard
   Holmes, the British
   army's "archaeologist", acquired the crown of the Abun, the head of
   the Ethiopian church, and a solid gold chalice from a soldier who
   had looted them. The booty was collected and auctioned off near
   Magdala. Holmes bought 350 illuminated bibles and manuscripts for
   the British Museum. Other books went to the royal library at
   Windsor and libraries at Oxford and Cambridge. They are still
   there, though odd treasures have been returned--usually the less
   valuable one--as gestures, whenever the British needed to court

Yohannes IV who emerged as Emperor after Tewodro's death, barely half a year after his coronation, on August 10th 1872, dispatched letters to Queen Victoria and to the British Foreign Secretary, Earl Grenville, requesting the return of a manuscript and icon both of which had been removed from Maqdala. The manuscript, a Kebra Nagast, or 'Glory of Kings', embodying the legend of the origin of the Ethiopian ruling dynasty, was of particular importance, for it appears to have been the volume containing "historical notices and other documents relating ... to the city of Aksum and its church", as Dr Dieu, an official of the British Museum, was later to record. The British Government was at that time anxious to remain on good terms with Yohannes who had co-operated with the British forces during the Maqdala campaign. The Foreign Office accordingly informed the British Museum that it would be a 'gracious and friendly act' to comply with the Ethiopian ruler's request. The Museum, which possessed two looted copies of the Kebra Nagast, agreed to return one--a rare example of the British Museum returning an acquisition. (22)

The question of the booty from Maqdala came to the fore again a generation or so later, in 1924, when the then Ethiopian regent, Tafari Makonnen (later Emperor Haile Selassie), undertook a state visit to England. On that occasion King George V presented him with Tewodros' crown, another item from Maqdala which had been housed in the Victoria and Albert Museum. Finally, when Queen Elizabeth II paid a state visit to Ethiopia in 1965, the British monarch, on the eve of her departure, presented Emperor Haile Selassie in Asmara with two items which had been kept at Windsor Castle for close on a century: Tewodros' cap and imperial seal which she returned "as a token of our gratitude and esteem". (23)

The return of the Axum Obelisk has fuelled the clamour for the return of the Maqdala booty. When the impending return of the Obelisk was announced in 2004, Professor Richard Parkhurst, the co-founder of the Return Our Obelisk Committee said Britain should take a leaf out of Italy's book and be prepared to send back to Ethiopia the treasures it stole in the name of the Empire. "This collection of loot from Maqdala was, I would argue, entirely unjustified and without justification in international law. These items should be returned." (24)


It is reputed that among the looted treasures of Maqdala are eleven or fifteen holy wooden Tabots, or tablets. These carvings with Ethiopian inscriptions represent the Ark of the Covenant and are sacred to Ethiopia's Orthodox Christians. Furthermore, a Tabot is a consecrated wooden altar slab, made of wood or stone, which symbolises the Ark of the Covenant (containing the Ten Commandments) and represents the presence of God in every Ethiopian Orthodox Church. It is the Tabot rather than the church building that is consecrated.

The Tabot of this story was discovered in a church cupboard in Edinburgh, Scotland--130 years after it was plundered by British troops. It was found by the Reverend John McLuckie of St John's Episcopal Church in Princes Street, Edinburgh, while looking for a communion set in a cupboard at St John's in October 2001. Reverend McLuckie had worked in the Ethiopian capital Addis Abba, and he recognised its religious significance and holiness. He checked with experts and discovered it had been stolen by British soldiers. Without hesitation he resolved that it must be returned to Ethiopia immediately, and the church agreed with him. In January 2002, a delegation of religious leaders from Ethiopian Orthodox Church travelled to Edinburgh and the Tabot was handed over to them at a ceremony. The Scottish Episcopal Church went further and called for all other artefacts stolen from Africa to be returned.


A year after the return of the Scottish Church Tabot, another Tabot from the Maqdala loot was returned to Ethiopia by another Briton. Doctor Ian MacLennan, a friend of Ethiopia and member of the Orthodox Church came across the sacred artefact in London in the middle of an auction of various Ethiopian cultural objects. Doctor MacLennan bought the Tabot for an undisclosed sum and he knew that it had to come back to Ethiopia. And he brought it back to Ethiopia within two weeks of getting hold of it.


African countries seeking the return of cultural objects must have the endurance of the long distance runner as typified by the persistence of Greece for the return of the Parthenon Sculptures. It is not for nothing that the Greeks gave us the marathon race. They are practising it in this affair. The point being made is that the former colonial powers and other wealthy European countries, particularly their museum professionals are loath to part with anything even if they remain locked up in stores and warehouses. The museum professionals first canvassed retention through the idea of the so-called 'universal museum', when that started unravelling they are now talking about travelling exhibitions that will never get to Africa. The Zimbabwe Bird that symbolises the emblem of a nation was returned only through a complicated process. Dawson Munjeri who as director of the National Museums and Monuments of Zimbabwe played a key role in the reunification of the stone bird of Great Zimbabwe wrote entertainingly: (27)

   But for the curators of: National Museums and Monuments (NMMZ); the
   Royal Museum of Central Africa (RMCA); Dr Bill Dewey curator of the
   exhibition 'Legacy of Stone: Zimbabwe Past and Present; the curator
   of Museum fur Volkerkunde in Berlin;

   But for the following institutions: RMCA, NMMZ and Prussian
   Cultural Heritage Foundation;

   But for the traditional and spiritual leadership;

   But for the Ambassadors of Germany and Belgium to Zimbabwe;

   But for the various Ministers of State inter alia Foreign Affairs,

   Arts and Culture of Belgium, Germany and Zimbabwe;

   But for Heads of State and Government of the three countries;

That was not all. The return of the bottom half was conditional. The Bird came: 'On Permanent loan to the National Museum of Zimbabwe'. During the handover, the German Ambassador extolled the "understanding of the Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation legal owners of the fragment". The solace to this insensitivity is that President Mugabe on receiving the Bird underlined "Never again shall the bird be severed in two and never again shall any part of the bird find its way to foreign territory". (28)

The same chicanery played itself out in the return of the Makonde Mask. The Barbier-Mueller Museum that bought the mask without conducting a proper due diligence investigation insisted that the agreement for the transfer must refer to the return as a 'donation'. Tanzania was forced to accept the Museum's position on the issue of ownership even after it had been returned to Tanzania. Twenty years elapsed from the moment that the Barbier-Mueller Museum heard that it had a stolen object in its collection to the time it returned it to the owner country. The Obelisk of Axum spent 68 years in Rome; no wonder some Italians maintained it should not be returned as it had become Italian by naturalisation. Even an official of Italy's Culture Ministry, Vittorio Sgarbi, was quoted by BBC News subscribing to this view saying that the Obelisk of Axum had been in Italy for 73 years and had become naturalised and Italian. In response, Yemane Kidane of Ethiopia's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, told the BBC that the Ethiopian people were tired of waiting for the Obelisk's return and accused the Italians of dragging their feet on the issue. "They promised to return the Obelisk, which is a symbol of our culture and history, many times and we are still waiting", he said. (29)

   When Law Aw, the King (also called the Fon) of Kom realized his
   loss of the Afo-A-Kom he was thought to be "psychologically
   killed," and soon died reported the TIME magazine of 5 November
   1973. The new Fon, Bobe-Meya, had a new Afo-A-Kom carved and
   displayed, as is customary, with female figures representing his
   wife and mother. But the new sculpture was no substitute for the
   old. The stolen statue was made about 1865 by Fon Yuh; the 7th
   ruler of Kom. It is an important emblem of Kom. The scepter
   represents the oath of office and is a symbol of continuity,
   solidarity and social stability. After the discovery Thaddeus Nkuo,
   first secretary of Cameroon in Washington and himself a Kom, at an
   emotional press conference demanding its return, explained: "it is
   beyond money, beyond value. It is the heart of the Kom, what
   unifies the tribe, the spirit of the nation, what holds us
   together. It is not an object of art for sale, and could not be."

In the resistance to keep El Negro some attempted to justify the exhibition of a stuffed human being by invoking the tradition of 'relics' (the display of bodies or body parts) of saints, a Catholic tradition that is especially strong in Southern Europe. But El Negro was never considered a saint. He had just always been around. One commentator remarked that the reaction of opponents to the repatriation of El Negro "brought back echoes of the barbarism of European imperialism." El Negro as 'The Purloined African' made the list at number 10 of Time Magazine's 'Top 10 Famous Stolen Body Parts'. (31) Others on the list include Santa Claus' Bones, Anne Boleyn's Heart, Remains of Thomas Paine and the head of King Badu Bonsu II who was number nine.

Whereas the agony suffered over the sojourn of Zimbabwe Bird, Obelisk of Axum, Makonde Mask and the Kenyan Vigango was endured by a family/group or the whole nation, in the case of El Negro one man, Dr Alphonse Arcelin bore the agony in more than one sense. He told Reuters of his reaction at the burial in Botswana when he saw the body for the first time in 1991. "I cried and I still cry when I think about it. I felt humiliated, insulted." Arcelin who lived in Cambrils, Catalonia, where he was a doctor and a Councillor of the Socialist Party of Catalonia was branded a traitor to the Catalan people for his campaign. He met great opposition to his campaign including from his own party members. Word was out that he was politically ambitious, and was using El Negro as a focal issue to recruit followers in the growing constituency of African immigrants living in Spain. Undaunted he sent several letters to the press and heads of government, and even threatened an African boycott of the 1992 Barcelona Olympics. Dr Arcelin, who died in Cuba on 17th August 2009, lived long enough to attend the burial of El Negro in Gaborone. Given what had happened in the long struggle to get the body back to Africa, it is not surprising that Reuters reported that it was "an emotional and sometimes bitter ceremony that recalled his degrading display in Europe for nearly two centuries." Botswana's Minister of Foreign Affairs told the more 1,000 mourners: "The honor we are bestowing on this son of Africa is an indication of our strong determination to close a chapter of the injustices of the past." "We are prepared to forgive", he said, standing next to the small coffin draped in the blue, white and black flag of Botswana "but we cannot forget the crimes of the past, lest they be repeated". (32)

The return of the severed head of King Badu Bonsu II was a rather sombre affair. The head was not displayed during the ceremony but stored elsewhere in the Ministry. Nana Kwekwe Darko III, who tipped the gin on the floor in a Ghanaian tradition of respect for the dead, dabbed tears from his eyes afterwards and said he wanted the Dutch to build schools and hospitals for his people. Mike Corder of the Associated Press who reported the event, cited the great, great grandson of the King as saying: "I am hurt, angry. My grandfather has been killed."

In 2014 at the commemoration ceremony of the 100th anniversary of the German genocide in Namibia, the German Minister for Economic Cooperation and development, Heidemarie Wieczorek-Zeul, presented her apologies on behalf of all Germans to the Hama and Herero people, acknowledging Germany's guilt, as well as moral, political, and historical responsibility. However, the Minister did not mention legal responsibility, despite expressly stating that General von Trotha would have been accountable for crimes against humanity pursuant to current international criminal law.

A delegation of over 50 Namibians including Herero and Nama leaders, government members and journalists attended the solemn ceremony in September 2011 when the twenty skulls were handed over by Charite University Hospital. The head of Charite explicitly acknowledged the crimes committed against Herero and Nama people "in the name of a perverted concept of scientific progress" and conveyed Charite's apologies to them. Likewise the spokeswoman for Charite said at "the time, they viewed the skulls not as human remains but as material with which to investigate and classify race". However, the German Government refused to apologise. Tensions grew at the repatriation ceremony, when the German Deputy Foreign Minister did not speak of apology but of reconciliation, and left out any references to the atrocious circumstances in which the Africans died. There were 'chaotic scenes' reported BBC News as some demonstrators shouted 'reparations', 'apology' and 'genocide'. The German Government has consistently refused to pay compensation and to acknowledge that what happened was genocide. With the German Government abdicating its responsibility the Charite University Hospital stepped in to act in its place.

Earlier at a church service in Berlin's St Matthew's Church, the twenty skulls were laid out in front of the altar, eighteen of them in cardboard boxes draped with the Namibian flag, and two others in glass boxes facing the audience. Associated Press reported that several members of the Namibian delegation "stepped forward during the service to bow in front of the skulls, singing songs, reading prayers and crying as they begged [sic] farewell." "Today our hearts ache, but as we weep and condemn the evil, we are also grateful to restore the honour and dignity of our ancestors" Neville Gertze the Ambassador of Namibia in Germany, said during the church service.

Unlike the recalcitrance of Italy over the return of Axum Obelisk and statue of Lion of Judah, the Ethiopians were spared the agony of interminably waiting for the return of the two Tabots discovered in 2001 and 2003. The one from the Scottish Episcopal Church was returned within months of its discovery, while the one bought at a London auction returned to Ethiopia within a fortnight of its purchase. We salute the decency and generosity of the Church, the Reverend John McLuckie, and Doctor Ian MacLennan. They shunned the chauvinism and insensitivity displayed in the other cases discussed. Indeed in the press statement issued by the Ethiopian Embassy in London on 6th December 2001, the Embassy expressed "its appreciation to St John's Episcopal church for its exemplary decision to return the Tabot to its native land." The Church on its part regards the repatriation as a "small act of friendship" and "an act of justice and solidarity" to Christians of another tradition. (33)


When the Afo-A-Kom finally returned to Kom it was joyously greeted. There was an explosion of joy and its purification was ordered, the New York Times 14th December 1973 reported. "Men in brightly colored tribal dress punched the air with spears, joyously reliving the triumphs of old wars. Ancient flintlock rifles barked in salute. Women waved raffia fronds and they swayed and chanted in unison." "The Afo-Akom is with us once more. There is peace. There is joy."

At the handing over ceremony of the bottom half of the iconic Great Zimbabwe bird, President Mugabe spoke with some bitterness about the "ruthless cultural plunder" of the British coloniser of Zimbabwe, Cecil Rhodes. "On behalf of the Government and people of Zimbabwe I feel privileged and honoured to receive the lower half of one of the soapstone birds from the Great Zimbabwe era which we heartily welcome back home after years of exile." He said this on 14th May 2003, amid pomp and ceremony, and in the presence of Cabinet Ministers, Members of Parliament, the Diplomatic Corps and traditional chiefs. The reunification, he added, was "restoration of national identity." The meaning of the Zimbabwe birds lies buried in the history of the people of Zimbabwe. The birds:

"were sacred representations constituting an integral part of the spiritual image of the capital.... The combination of imagery demonstrates the union between the secular (the State) and the sacred (the guardian spirits). Indeed the stone Birds continued to represent the spirit and essence of Great Zimbabwe long after its abandonment." (34)

Hence Munjeri described the removal of the Birds as "sacrilegious". (35)

There was joy and satisfaction when the Makonde Mask returned to Tanzania. At the event marking the return of the mask, the Minister for Natural Resources and Tourism said: "The nation marks a historic day as we receive one of the country's cultural heritage treasures, Makonde artifact, that for many years the government pressed for its return." "Being a member of UNESCO", she added, Tanzania has the right to reclaim the stolen cultural artefacts and other items of artistic value spirited out of the country."

The BBC News story of the return of the vigango which captures the mood of the people is captioned: 'Kenyans Fete Repatriated Relics'. (36) In the opening sentence the report says: "For the last 22 years, a village along Kenya's picturesque coast has blamed its ill fortune on the theft of two memorial wooden statues known as vigango." The Chalani village "came alive with song and dance as the vigango were returned to the Mwakiru family and installed on the desecrated grave." Festus Tinga Mwakiru a member of the Mwakiru family was in high spirits as he believed that because the vigango were now back his family's ill fortune is about to end.

As to Alphonse Arcelin who attended the funeral and reburial of El Negro in Gaborone it is reported that he was overcome with emotion. He was made a hero of Botswana and his fight was echoed in all the press and media. People in Botswana shouted his name while he stood satisfied looking at the traditional ceremony that he had dreamed about for more than a decade.

If from the account already given there was no ecstasy in the return of the head of Badu Bonsu, there was at least atonement and conciliation. The Dutch Foreign Minister Maxime Verhagen used the ceremony to apologise for Dutch involvement in the slave trade. Ghana, then known as the Gold Coast, was a base for Dutch slave traders. "We are also here because of our mutual desire to lay to rest episodes in ... history that were unfortunate and shameful," the Minister said. "Our common past also includes the infamous slave trade, which our traders engaged in and sustained and which inflicted so much harm on so many parts of the world." It should also be noted that the Dutch Government dealt expeditiously with the request of Ghana, the head being returned four years after its discovery.

According to a BBC report of 19th April 2005, when the plane carrying the first part of the Obelisk landed in Axum, a crowd of Ethiopian ministers, priests and other VIPs cheered and clapped. "I am excited, overjoyed and delighted", said the Ethiopian Culture Minister. "This is a very historical moment for us, we have waited so long to have the obelisk back," he added. Pealing bells and chanting priests could be heard from a nearby cathedral, reported AP news. The re-erection of the Obelisk was completed in September 2008. BBC News of 4th September 2008 reported the unveiling. A giant Ethiopian flag was removed from the Obelisk in front of a crowd of tens of thousands. The ceremony was the last big event of Ethiopia's millennium year, the year 2000 by the country's Coptic calendar. The President and the Prime Minister were among the officials attending. Ethiopia's Ambassador to the United Kingdom told the BBC's Network Africa programme:

   We have fought a protracted battle to bring back our historical
   asset, and this is very important because it's a manifestation of
   who we are and it also shows what our ancestors have done. (37)

When the Tabot found in the Scottish Episcopal Church arrived in Ethiopia, Ethiopian Ministers, diplomats, heads of agencies and tourists joined the crowds at Addis Ababa's Trinity Cathedral. In a colourful ceremony at the Cathedral, Ethiopians rejoiced at the return of the Tabot to its rightful home. BBC News reported that "Ethiopians sang and danced alongside the processional cortege as it made the four hour journey along the eleven km [seven miles] route to the cathedral." "Adorned in resplendent vestments made of bright velvet and gold and carrying silver and gold processional crosses", the report continued, "thousands of priests and religious elders from Addis Ababa's 106 Orthodox churches led a procession from the airport to Addis Ababa's Trinity Cathedral, where the wooden relic will be stored". One report said over a million and another hundreds of thousands of Ethiopians lined the streets from the airport into Addis Ababa and a national holiday was declared.

Thousands flocked to Namibia's Hosea Kutako International Airport, praying, singing and chanting as the twenty skulls from Germany were returned to their homeland. The skulls, which were transported in caskets draped with the Namibian flag, were removed from the plane with military honours. Among those welcoming the skulls was the country's Prime Minister Nahas Angula who said,

   These mortal remains are testimony to the horrors of colonialism
   and German cruelty against our people. May the mortal remains of
   our ancestors proceed into their homeland.


In 2003 the directors of well-known museums in the United States and Europe issued the Declaration on the Importance and Value of Universal Museums (38) maintaining that over time antiquities stolen and acquired by them had become part of the museums and countries that had cared for them and thereby have become part of the heritage of the countries that hold them. In other words they have become naturalised. The truth of course is that only human beings can become naturalised citizens of the countries in which they have resided for the stipulated time. On passing the citizenship test they then swear an oath of allegiance to their new country. How do you make the Benin bronzes and the Parthenon Sculptures swear an oath of allegiance to Britain? The Declaration received a hostile reception from not only archaeologists, museum professionals but also fair minded citizens of the world. It is a ridiculous attempt to justify the unjustifiable. And it is now discredited. Even since the Declaration, signatory museums like the Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York and Museum of Fine Arts, Boston have been forced to repatriate unprovenanced cultural property in their possession, and thereby gravely undermining their position. Realising the failure of the universal museum ploy, one of the supporters of the Declaration, Neil MacGregor, the director of the British Museum is now calling for the introduction of travelling exhibitions to assuage the demands of countries calling for the return of their cultural property. In a lecture delivered at the University of Western Australia in Perth, on 25th October 2011 MacGregor, while insisting that artefacts should not be returned to their countries of origin, said they should instead go round the world in travelling exhibitions. (39) The suggestions about universal museums and travelling exhibitions are bankrupt ideas that try to side step the fundamental arguments in favour of a considered and sympathetic response to the return and restitution of cultural property to their countries of origin. They are nothing short of unbridled chauvinism and should be condemned. But where does sub-Saharan Africa stand in all this controversy?

Unfortunately, our national authorities and museum professionals have been almost criminally negligent in pursuing Africa's best interests. They remain hopelessly out of touch. Because of the small crumbs that fall their way, they cannot vigorously champion the cause of return and restitution. They are compromised and therefore incapable of decisive action in these matters. As stated above, a Nigerian head of the National Museums attended the opening ceremony of an exhibition where obviously looted Nigerian objects formed part of the exhibition. In another instance, a Permanent Secretary of Nigeria's Ministry of Culture wrote the foreword to a book featuring looted Nigerian antiquities, and another head of Nigeria's National Museums contributed an article to the same book.

Greed and corruption make them enter into untenable and iniquitous agreements. They thus provide ammunition to those who refuse to consider return on any ground whatsoever. In an earlier article (40) the author has deplored the arrangement between Nigeria and France whereby in exchange for France's recognition of Nigeria's ownership of looted Nok sculptures, Nigeria agreed to loan the pieces to France for a renewable period of 25 years. It has now been reported that in 2005, the period was extended to 37 years. (41) This is nothing short of turning it into a 'permanent loan'. Things have been stood on their heads when we remember that permanent loans usually occur where States have been forced to return or restitute stolen or illegally exported cultural objects to their countries of origin as happened in the cases of Zimbabwe Bird and Makonde Mask. A permanent loan is therefore used as a face saving formula. In this instance it is being used as a sword instead of a shield.


On Friday 20th June 2014, a Briton, Mark Walker, returned to the Oba of Benin in his palace two looted bronzes from the 1897 British raid on Benin: a long fabled ibis bird, and the monarch's bell. Walker, a retired medical consultant, said at the handing over ceremony that he decided to return the statues to Nigeria in September 2013 after learning of their history, in part from his grandfather's diary from the time, which described the treasures as 'loot'. Dr Walker said that this gave him "the idea that perhaps they should go to the place where they will be appreciated forever." His grandfather was Captain Phillip Walker who participated in the raid. Dr Walker, in addition to these two objects, also presented his grandfather's diary to the Benin monarch. The Governor of Edo State, of which Benin is the capital in today's Nigeria, described Dr Walker as a man with a 'heart of gold' who believed that a wrong perpetrated could not be corrected by time but by doing what he had done. The ecstasy did not end there. The presentation came within a few days of the monarch's birthday and he described the return of the antiquities as the best birthday gifts he has ever received.

The postscript is taken from the accounts of the event as reported in two Nigerian newspapers, The Vanguard, 23rd June 2014, and The Punch, 29th June 2014.

(1) Ekpo Eyo, 'Return and Restitution of Cultural Property: View Points' (1979) 31 Museum, 18-19.

(2) Richard Pankhurst, 'A History of Early Twentieth Century Ethiopia. The Occupation Years.' <> Accessed 24 Sept. 2013; Addis Ababa Culture and Tourism Bureau, 'The Statue of the Lion of Judah' < addis-ababa-ethiopia-2/item/5-lion-of-judahl-> Accessed 24 Sept. 2013.

(3) Caroline Renold, Anne Laure Bandle, Alessandro Chechi, 'Case Great Zimbabwe Bird--Zimbabwe and Prussia Cultural Heritage Foundation, Germany' Platform ArThemis March 2013, Art-Law Centre, University of Geneva, <> ; BBC NEWS, 'Zimbabwe Bird 'Flies' Home': <> Accessed 23 Sept. 2013. See also Wikipedia, 'Zimbabwe Bird' < Zimbabwe_Bird> Accessed 23 Sept. 2013.

(4) BBC News, 'Ethiopians Celebrate Obelisk Return' < africa/4459671.stm> 19 April 2005. Accessed 23 Sept. 2013.

(5) Tullio Scovazzi, 'The Return of the Axum Obelisk: The Recent Story of the Axum Obelisk'. <> Accessed 23 Sept. 2013. See also Wikipedia, "Obelisk of Axum." Accessed 23 Sept. 2013.

(6) By the 1947 Peace Treaty, Italy bound herself to 'restore' within eighteen months all works of art removed from Ethiopia. This obligation was not complied with as far as the Lion of Judah and the Axum obelisk were concerned. By a bilateral treaty concluded in 1956 Italy undertook within six months to dismount, remove and transport to Ethiopia the Obelisk, recognising that it was subject to restitution to Ethiopia. This obligation was also not complied with.

(7) BBC News, 'Return of Axum Obelisk Imminent' <htpp:// Africa/4308647> 1 March 2005. Accessed 23 Sept. 2013.

(8) This account and subsequent observations about the Afo-A-Com unless otherwise stated are taken from Alessandro Chechi, Anne Laure Bandle, Marc-Andre Renold, 'Case Afo-A-Kom --Furman Gallery and Kom People', Platform ArThemis (<>), Art-Law Centre, University of Geneva. There is a lot of literature on the affair. See especially, John Henry Merryman, Albert E. Elsen and Stephen KL. Urice, Law, Ethics and the Visual Arts (Alphen aan den Rijn: Kluwer Law International, 2007). Jet Magazine, 'Sacred African Statue on its Way Back Home', 13 Dec. 1973.

(9) Folarin Shyllon, 'Return of Makonde Mask from Switzerland to Tanzania--A Righteous Conclusion?' (2011) XVI Art Antiquity and Law, 79-83.

(10) Miranda Pyne, 'Reflections on El Negro's Return RaceSci:History of Race in Science. In Media, 26 Feb. 2001. <> Accessed 26 Aug. 2013. Wikipedia, 'Negro of Banyoles' <>. Abednico Mabuse, 'Botswana against Illicit Trafficking of Cultural Properties' MmegiOnline, 2 Nov. 2012. <> Accessed 22 Aug. 2013. Darren Schuettler, 'African Bushman Reburied at Home, 170 Years On' Reuters 5 Oct. 1999, Save The San <> Accessed 26 Aug. 2013.

(11) Wikipedia, 'Sarah Baartman' <> Accessed 26 Aug. 2013

(12) David Knight, 'There was Injustice: Skulls of Colonial Victims Returned to Namibia' Spiegel Online International, 27 Sept. 2011 <>EnglishSite>Germany> History; BBC News, 'Germany Returns Namibain Skulls taken in Colonial Era' < world-europe-15127992>; Susan Palk, "Stolen' African Skulls Return to Namibia' <www. l/10/05/world/africa/skulls-return-to-namibia>; A Bandle, A. Chechi, M-A Renold '20 Skulls--Namibia and Charite Universitatsmedizin Berlin, Germany' <http://plone.umge. ch/.../20-skulls-of-colonial-victims-2013-namibia-and...>; 'Genocide Skulls Returned to Namibia' <>

(13) Mike Corder, 'Dutch Return Severed Head of King Badu Bonsu II to his Descendants in Ghana 171 Years Later'. Huffington Post 25 May 2011. <> Wikipedia, 'Badu-Bonsu IF <>.

(14) Communication from the Ethnography Section of Botswana National Museum, 14 Oct.2013.

(15) <htpp://www.csmonitor,com/layout/set/print/2006/0302/p05s01-woaf.html> Accessed 16 Aug. 2013. See also Marc Lacey, 'The Case of the Stolen Statues: Solving a Kenyan Mystery', N.Y. Times, 16 April 2006. <www.nytimes.corn/2006/04/16/world/africa/16artifacts. html?pagewanted=print&_r=0>

(16) Reported in <>

(17) Paul Bator, 'An Essay on the International Trade in Art', Stanford Law Review, 34 (1982), 327.

(18) The statement by Mr Yusuf Abadallah Usman, the D-G appeared in many Nigerian newspapers and also on the internet. I am quoting from the Nigerian newspaper Nation of 22 Aug.2012, p. 44.

(19) <http: //> accessed 11 Aug. 2013.

(20) Information regarding 2013 returns received from senior NCMM official.

(21) Economist, 10 July 1999, at 53.

(22) Richard Pankhurst, 'Restitution of Cultural Property: The Case of Ethiopia' 58, 59, 149 Museum (1986).

(23) Id. at 59-60.

(24) BBC News, 'Ethiopia Keenly Awaits Obelisk's Return' < africa/3463667.stm> 2 Feb. 2004. Accessed 7 Oct. 2013.

(25) BBC News, 'Sacred Artefact Found in Cupboard', < stm> Accessed 7 Oct. 2013; BBC News, 'Ethiopian Artefact Returning Home' <http://news.> Accessed 7 Oct. 2013.

(26) BBC News, 'Raided Lost Ark Returns Home' < Africa/3034860.stm>.

(27) <> Accessed 8 Sept. 2012.

(28) Dawson Munjeri, 'The Reunification of a National Symbol', Museum International, (2009) No. 241-2, 12-21.

(29) BBC News, 'Italy to Keep Ethiopian Monument' <http;// stm> Accessed 15 Jan. 2014.

(30) Alessandro Chechi et al; 'Case of Afo-A-Kom' citing John Merryman, el al; Law, Ethics and the Visual Art, 364.

(31) <,29569,1988719,00.html> Accessed 29 Aug. 2013.

(32) Darren Schuettler, 'African Bushman Buried at Home, 170 Years On'. <http://www. > Accessed 29 Aug. 2013.

(33) <> Accessed 22 Jan. 2014.

(34) E. Matenga, The Soapstone Birds of Great Zimbabwe: Symbols of a Nation, (1998) Harare, Africa Publishing Group, 19.

(35) Munjeri, above, note 28 at p. 16.

(36) BBC News, 'Kenyans Fete Repatriated Relics' < africa/6231134,stm> 22 June 2007. Accessed 16 Aug. 2013

(37) BBC News, 'Ethiopia Unveils Ancient Obelisk' < stm> 4 Sept. 2008. Accessed 23 Sept. 2013.

(38) 'Declaration on the Importance and Value of Universal Museums', ICOM News, No. 1, 2004. <http//>

(39) Neil MacGregor, 'Museums in the Global World' < lectures/macgregor> Although the author has not read the lecture, her brief comment is based on the numerous reports of it and exceprts. The internet reference supplied by the Institute of Advanced Studies, University of Western Australia produced nothing when access was attempted on 16 Oct. 2013. The lecture was presented by the Western Australia Museum in Association with the University of Western Australia.

(40) Folarin Shyllon, 'Return of Makonde Mask from Switzerland to Tanzania: A Righteous Conclusion?', (2011) XVI Art Antiquity and Law 79.

(41) Sally Price, Paris Primitive: Jacques Chiracs Museum on the Quai Branly, (2007, Chicago: University of Chicago Press), 70-71.

Folarin Shyllon, Faculty of Law, University of Ibadan, Nigeria. Revised and expanded version of paper presented at the 3rd International Conference of Experts on the Return of Cultural Property. Athens--Ancient Olympia, 23-26 Oct. 2013.
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Date:Jul 1, 2014
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