Ethiopia: Largest Single Restitution of Looted Artifacts Set to Back Home

Ethiopia has restituted its national treasures that were looted in 1968 at the Battle of Mekdela. The heritages were handed over to the Embassy of Ethiopia in London by the Scheherazade Foundation.

Among the heritages are a handwritten Ethiopian Bible, crosses, an Imperial shield, a set of beakers, an icon and a magical scroll. The treasures were procured by the Scheherazade Foundation through a Dorset-based auction house, and private dealers in mainland Europe. The Foundation is a private charity established to bridge cultures, to address critical imbalances within society, and to relearn ancient patterns of thinking.

Receiving the items last Wednesday, Ethiopian Ambassador in London Teferi Melesse appreciated the Foundation for acquiring the precious items and reiterated calls for museums, collectors, and holders of Maqdala heritage to return these items to their rightful home.

"To honor the memory of Maqdala, I once again renew the calls made by countless Ethiopians before me for museums, collectors and holders of Maqdala heritage to return these items is my hope that in the Maqdala returns to come, the relations between our two nations and people can deepen and grow from strength to strength."

Founder of the Scheherazade Foundation, Tahir Shah assured that he knew what the return of the objects would mean to the people of Ethiopia and that through his foundation hopes to build bridges between the two nations.

According to him, the aim of the handover is to heal old wounds. "As someone who has written a book about Ethiopian history, I know what the return of objects looted by Britain's colonial force means to the people of Ethiopia," he disclosed.

Attending the handover ceremony, Ethiopia's National Heritage Restitution Committee member Dr. Alula Pankhurst said, "Yesterday's treasure trove of returned looted artefacts is the single most significant heritage restitution in Ethiopia's history and is almost equivalent in number to all the private collection returns since the battle of Maqdala in 1868."

He also expressed his hope and determination that this move will pave the way for further restitution initiatives; especially at a time when retaining artefacts, notably human remains such as those of Prince Alemayehu in Windsor Chapel or sacred objects such as a the holy Tabot.

It is remembered that several precious Ethiopian heritages were plundered aftermath of the battle of Maqdala. Although many of these illegally obtained items are currently housed in public museums across the globe, some remain in private collections across the United Kingdom.

Since then, Ethiopians have been consistently calling for the return of these looted treasures to their origin country. There have been a number of occasions when collectors have returned items to Ethiopia following requests for their repatriation.

The government is still disclosing that the looting of Maqdala was a great injustice of the 19th century and persists as a scar on the, otherwise, warm and friendly relations between the peoples of Ethiopia and the United Kingdom. "It is our belief that all Maqdala objects must find their way home to bring closure to generations of Ethiopians dispossessed of their heritage and aggrieved by this painful chapter in our shared history," the embassy stated.

The heritages have spiritual, cultural and historic values to the country. The regain of these heritages will pave ways for strengthening negotiations to ensure additional plundered heritages return home. Currently, the embassy expressed its readiness to arrange opportunities in which the heritages it has already received to arrive home.

BY YOHANES JEMANEH

THE ETHIOPIAN HERALD 12 SEPTEMBER 2021

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