Culture Minister Urges British Museum to Return 11 Replica Arks of the Covenant

25 Mar 2019

V&A commit to further consultations on return of Maqdala artefacts

Following her successful engagements with the National Army Museum, British Library and St George’s Chapel in Windsor earlier in the week, Ethiopia’s Minister of Culture, Tourism and Sport, Her Excellency Dr Hirut Kassaw Wondim, visited the British Museum, and the Victoria and Albert Museum in the final meetings of her visit to the United Kingdom.

On her visit to the British Museum on Wednesday 20th March, the Minister and her delegation were welcomed by the Museum’s Director, Dr Hartwig Fischer, Deputy Director, Dr Jonathan Williams, Keeper of the Africa, Oceania and the Americas Collection, Dr Lissant Bolton, and other members of the Africa team.

During discussions, the Minister welcomed the British Museum’s offer to renew the previous relationship it shared with the National Museum of Ethiopia while extending an official invitation to Ethiopia for the Director and his team to explore further opportunities for cooperation.

Following on from this, the Minister formally requested the Museum to return 11 replica Arks of the Covenant, taken following the Battle of Maqdala, that are currently privately stored at the British Museum. “The Arks act as spiritual anchors for the Ethiopian Orthodox Church and are more than just artefacts,” the Minister emphasised. The Minister concluded by urging the Museum’s Trustees to act on this request so the Arks could return to serve Orthodox believers in Ethiopia as soon as possible.

… Discussions with Victoria and Albert Museum

On Thursday 21st March, H.E Dr. Hirut Kassaw visited the Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A) in Kensington to continue discussions on the return of Maqdala artefacts currently on display at the Museum.

Accompanied by her delegation, which included H.E Ambassador Fesseha Shawel Gebre and the Director of the National Museum of Ethiopia, Efrem Amare, the Minister was welcomed by the Director of the V&A, Dr. Tristram Hunt and his team.

On the occasion, the Minister visited the “Maqdala 1868” special exhibition, which has been running at the Museum since April last year and is due to close on 30 June 2019.

H.E. Dr Hirut Kassaw with Dr Tristram Hunt © Victoria and Albert Museum, London 2019

During discussions, the Minister once again reiterated her call for all British institutions with Maqdala artefacts in their collections, including the V&A, to return them to Ethiopia where they hold far more significance. She emphasized that these artefacts are a vital source of knowledge, culture and wisdom and, when returned, can act as foundations to propel the future development of Ethiopia.

H.E. Dr Hirut Kassaw, said: “The handover ceremony for the locks of hair of Emperor Tewodros II’s at the National Army Museum yesterday was a new birth in the relations between Ethiopia and the United Kingdom. In the same vein, it is my belief that the return of these precious objects of ‘Ethiopianess’ by the V&A can act as another special day in the history of our relations.”

On his part, Dr Hunt expressed the sincere desire of the Museum to see these artefacts on display in Ethiopia soon, but noted, with regret, that the biggest obstacle to this was the present status of the law in the UK which prohibits restitution. Dr Hunt, however, did commit to continuing consultations with the Minister, her team and the Embassy going forward on the return of these artefacts to Ethiopia.

Dr Tristram Hunt, said: “I was delighted to welcome H.E. Dr. Hirut Kassaw, Ethiopian Minister for Culture, Tourism and Sport for a tour of Maqdala 1868. Throughout the process of organising the display, the V&A has enjoyed a close and positive dialogue with the Ethiopian Embassy in London, with both of our organisations committed to further collaboration. We look forward to continuing this important conversation.”

—ENDS—

For more information, please contact the Press Office on:

E: press@ethioembassy.org.uk| T: 020 7838 3880/3 | W: www.ethioembassy.org.uk

Background:

British Museum: Founded in 1753, the British Museum was the first national public museum in the world. For further information, visit the British Museum website: www.britishmuseum.org

V & A: The V&A is the world’s leading museum of art and design, housing a permanent collection of over 2.3 million objects that span over 5,000 years of human creativity. The Museum holds many of the UK’s national collections and houses some of the greatest resources for the study of architecture, furniture, fashion, textiles, photography, sculpture, painting, jewellery, glass, ceramics, book arts, Asian art and design, theatre and performance.

The V&A is currently hosting “Maqdala 1868”, a year-long display of 20 rare Maqdala artefacts, seized by British troops 150 years ago at the Battle of Maqdala.

For further information, visit the V&A website: www.vam.ac.uk

 

Latest News

Browse all
The first Ethiopian Diaspora Festival since the establishment of the Ethiopian Diaspora Agency is set to take place in Addis Ababa between 27-29 August 2019. All Ethiopian community members in the United Kingdom are invited to join diaspora from around the world to attend the Festival.
26 Jul 2019
Ethiopian Diaspora Festival 2019
Ethiopia's Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed is among nominees for the 2019 Chatham House Prize, presented to the person, persons or organization deemed to have made the most significant contribution to the improvement of international relations. Other nominees are Sir David Attenborough and Katrín Jakobsdóttir.
19 Jul 2019
Prime Minister Abiy among Chatham House Prize 2019 Nominees
Much to the chagrin of most Ethiopians, as well as Ethiopia’s development partners, an attempted coup took place on the 22 June 2019 in Bahir Dar, the capital of the Regional State of Amhara. Five officials were killed in the foiled coup, led by the ringleader Brigadier General Asamenew Tsiege.
16 Jul 2019
A shortcut to power is a wrong cut to power
London hosted government ministers and officials, the diplomatic community, journalists, academics and members of civil society, in the first-of-its-kind Global Conference on Media Freedom. Ethiopia was represented by Ambassador Fesseha Shawel and Press Secretary at the Prime Minister’s Office, Billene Seyoum.
12 Jul 2019
Ethiopia takes part in first Global Conference on Media Freedom
Parliament approved a $13.4 billion budget for the 2019/20 fiscal year that began on 8th July. Compared to the previous budget year, this year’s is 12% higher. The government says it will increase investments in key sectors such as agriculture, energy and mining. It also plans to attract more FDI.
9 Jul 2019
Parliament approves $13.4 billion 2019/20 budget
Around 17 British energy companies will be visiting Ethiopia from 14th – 19th July as part of the Energy Catalyst Mission. The key objectives of the mission are to help companies applying for Energy Catalyst Round 7 to obtain an understanding of the energy access issues in Ethiopia and gain links to potential partners.
8 Jul 2019
British energy firms visit Ethiopia to explore opportunities
State Minister of Finance, Eyob Tekalign Tolina, announced plans to grant two telecom licences to private firms and sell a 49% minority stake in Ethio Telecom – a venture that will see foreign multinationals entering one of Africa’s largest markets. The firms are expected to enter Ethiopia’s telecoms market by 2020.
7 Jul 2019
Ethiopia opens telecoms market to foreign investment
On 29th June, the Embassy hosted an exclusive event celebrating Ethiopian food and culture with renowned Ethiopian chef and Guild of Food Writers nominee, Yohanis Gebreyesus Hailemariam, in the presence of Ethiopian Ambassador to the United Kingdom, His Excellency Fesseha Shawel Gebre, and around eighty guests.
5 Jul 2019
Chef Yohanis: Putting Ethiopian Food on the Culinary Map
Coca-Cola highlights Ethiopia’s investment potential in new campaign. The Going Big in Ethiopia campaign features companies engaged in coffee, textiles, logistics, manufacturing and other industries, talking about the vast opportunities the Ethiopian economy offers to global investors.
28 Jun 2019
Going Big in Ethiopia
Ethiopian Airlines, was voted the ‘Best Airline in Africa’ (for the third consecutive year), ‘Best Business Class in Africa’ and ‘Best Economy Class in Africa’ at the 2019 Skytrax World Airlines Awards. On 21st June the airline marked its 6-month anniversary of the direct flight from Manchester to Addis Ababa.
26 Jun 2019
Ethiopian Airlines voted ‘Best Airline in Africa’ + Manchester celebrates 6-month anniversary
In their first adventure together, Freddie Flintoff, Chris Harris and Paddy McGuinness head to Ethiopia, where they drive through stunning landscapes of Ethiopia to reach the Afar Triangle - the hottest place on earth! Top Gear Producers and presenters said that filming in Ethiopia was the “highlight” of the series.
25 Jun 2019
Top Gear: Ethiopia episode highlight of the series