The Asantehene, Otumfuo Osei Tutu II, engaged in talks last Thursday with the leadership of The British Museum regarding regalia items taken from the Ashanti people, specifically after the Battle of Amoaful or The Ashanti War of 1874 with the British.
During his working visit to London, he also expressed interest in contemporary cultural cooperation in the management and technical assistance for the Manhyia Palace Museum.
The Asantehene was warmly received by the Museum Director, Dr Hartwig Fischer, Deputy Director Dr Jonathan Williams, Head of the Africa Department and Curator Sam Nixon, and Julie Hudson.
Otumfuo Osei Tutu II later explained that the Manhyia Museum, currently undergoing significant restructuring and expansion, is a living and profit-making museum that occasionally requires additional collections to enhance patronage and growth, similar to other major museums.
Dr Fischer, leading the British Museum team in discussions, expressed his enthusiasm for the Asantehene's visit and promised to work towards his desires within the framework of established laws.
A previous memorandum of understanding (MOU) would be reviewed in due time for the loaning of items for the Asantehene's silver jubilee celebration in Kumasi next year.
Additionally, the Museum agreed to collaborate on a technical framework developed by two of the Asantehene's advisors: former Keeper of Ethnography at the British Museum and previous Professor of History and Vice Principal of the University of Glasgow, Malcolm McLeod, who played a crucial role in the establishment of the Manhyia Palace Museum in 1994, and historian, museum economist, and development specialist Ivor Agyeman-Duah.
The ongoing technical discussions in London will also involve visits to the Manhyia Palace Museum, object identification at the Museum for loan agreements, and addressing legal implications. It should be noted that the British Museum Act does not permit the permanent removal of items from its collection.
Dr Fischer and the British Museum team will also be involved in the reopening and anniversary celebrations of the Manhyia Palace Museum.
During his visit, the Asantehene was given a private tour of the current exhibition titled “Luxury and Power – Persia to Greece,” which focuses on the Greco-Persian Wars.
Furthermore, on behalf of the Palace, Mr Agyeman-Duah held discussions with Dr Tristram Hunt, the Director of the Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A), the world's leading art and design institution, in London. A bilateral agreement between the Palace and the V&A is expected to be signed before February 2024.
The V&A, which houses a collection of Asante regalia, is developing a program concept for next February to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the 1874 War. This initiative will involve joint participation from Ghanaian and British artists for a memorial event in London.
Next year also marks the centenary of the return of Asantehene Nana Agyeman Prempeh I from exile in Seychelles after twenty-seven years.
In 1976, the late Asantehene Otumfuo Opoku Ware II made a request for the return of regalia to the Director of the British Museum, Sir John Pope-Hennessy. As a result, the Trustees organized the major exhibition “Asante Kingdom of Gold,” which was inaugurated by Opoku Ware II and the Duke of Gloucester. The exhibition later travelled to the Natural History Museum in New York.
The cooperation between the British Museum and Manhyia at that time also included training museum managers in Kumasi and Ghana, which eventually led to the establishment of the significant British Museum International program in Africa.
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