Some of the “crown jewels” of Ghana are to be loaned to the African country after British troops raided the palaces of Asante kings.
The British Museum and the Victoria & Albert Museum (V&A) will return 32 pieces of Asante Gold as part of a three-year loan agreement with the option to extend for a further three years.
The controversial deal has sparked concern that the decision could open opportunity for full returns of artefacts.
It is also believed that the loan could pave way for other controversial items, such as the Elgin Marbles, to be returned to the places from which they were taken.
Some of the ‘crown jewels’ of Ghana are to be loaned to the African country after British troops raided the palaces of Asante kings
Getty/ British Museum
Among the items set to be returned to Ghana are a Mpomponsuo sword traditionally used by Asante kings to swear on oath and a small gold lute ornament gifted to a British diplomat when relations were good in 1817.
The Asante Gold is set to be returned to Otumfo Osei Tutu II – the current King of Asante – and not the Ghanaian government.
Tristram Hunt, director of the V&A, said they were similar to “our Crown Jewels”.
Hunt insists the deal wasn’t “restitution by the back door”, with the items set to go on display at the Manhyia Palace Museum in Kumasi, as part of the King’s silver jubilee celebrations.
The British Museum bought the dozens of objects from Britain’s colonial administrators in 1900.
During the 19th century, the Asante Kingdom clashed with British forces, which led to regular raids on the royal palace.
The Asante, also known as the Ashanti, are a people who ruled over vast swathe of modern day Ghana between the 1700s and 1900s.
Many have raised concerns that a similar agreement could be used to return the Elgin Marbles to Greece.
Among the items set to be returned to Ghana are a Mpomponsuo sword traditionally used by Asante kings to swear on oath
A source at the British Museum said they were “working to strengthen our relationship with our colleagues in Greece”.
“We are still exploring if there is an arrangement that would allow some of the Parthenon sculptures to travel to Greece,” they told The Telegraph.
“We may not succeed and reach an agreement, but believe it is worth trying to find a way through to mutual benefit.”