Taking Back Our History: Understanding African Art Repatriation


Earlier this month, the Victoria & Albert Museum in London responded to a claim by the Ethiopian government to retrieve items taken from the 1868 battle of Maqdala by suggesting that Ethiopia take them out on a long-term loan. The items, which were taken from the mountain capital of Emperor Tewodros II in the area formerly known as Abyssinia, include a gold crown, a royal wedding dress, the bones of Prince Alemayehu, Emperor Tewodros II son who was captured and taken to Britain where he died at just 18, and more.

The audacious suggestion that the items be “loaned” back was a clear disregard for cultural ownership, a reinforcement of colonial attitudes that once again stripped African countries of their culture and agency.

The outrage that ensued was no surprise, but as we know, outrage…

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