Asanteman, in a show of rich culture, gathered at a durbar of chiefs at Dwabrem of the Manhyia Palace on Thursday, January 8, 2024 to welcome back to Kumasi, some Asante artefacts looted by the British during the 3rd Anglo-Asante war otherwise known as the Sagrenti War 150 years ago.
The items, seven in number, were returned from the Fowler Museum of the University of California, USA permanently and handed over to the Asantehene, Otumfuo Osei Tutu II.
The durbar dubbed ‘Kuntunkuni Durbar’ was attended by thousands of people including chiefs and queenmothers from Asanteman, the Vice President, Dr Mahamudu Bawumia and his wife , Samira Bawumia, the Speaker of Parliament, Alban Bagbin, former Presidents John Agyekum Kufuor and John Dramani Mahama, and the British High Commissioner to Ghana, Harriet Thompson .
List of artefacts
The returned objects include a royal stool belonging to the 10th Asantehene, Kofi Karikari, a sika mena (elephant tail whisk), two royal stool ornaments, a gorget (royal necklace) or stool ornament, bracelets and/or anklets, and an asipim (ornamental chair).
According to the Fowler Museum’s research, four objects were taken on February 5, 1874, and three were part of the indemnity payment that was made after the Treaty of Fomena.
Officials of Fowler Museum travelled from the USA to hand over the objects to the Asantehene.
Kuntunkuni is a black cloth usually worn during periods of mourning. For Asanteman, the day was both for mourning and merrymaking looking at the events that transpired during the Sagrenti war in which some 4,000 Asante soldiers died, and how the stolen items found their way to museums abroad before being returned to Kumasi.
Nananom Amanhene rode in palanquin amidst the firing of muskets. The Asantehemaa, Nana Konadu Yiadom II was in attendance.
Tracing the history of the Sagrenti war, Otumfuo Osei Tutu said the British forces attacked Asante without provocation. “Today is both a sad and happy day. 150 years ago, we were here when without provocation, the British pounced on us. They were not happy about the expansion of the Asante kingdom so they decided to attack us. They didn’t want to see Asante expand too wide. They overrun us and looted our regalia,” he said.
Otumfuo made reference to Prof. Tom McCaskie, a Professor of Asante History at the Birmingham University who said the British stole about 400,000 ounces of gold dust which in present times value at about £2 billion.
Otumfuo said Asante was a nation but has come all the way to be part of Ghana.
Otumfuo further stated that some of the things they stole went to the Fowler museum but they have decided to return them to Asante. “This durbar is to show that indeed the British stole from us,” he added .
He narrated how he worked fervently to get the British Museum to agree to return some of the treasured Asante objects in their collections albeit as loan. In his words, Asante is alive because Britain could not take away the Golden Stool, which is the soul of the Kingdom.
Don’t underrate Asante
The Asantehene said no one should attempt to take Asante for granted. “We are now part of Ghana. We respect our laws. But whatever you do you cannot take Asante out of Ghana. Whether politicians or whatever you cannot do that. If you attempt to do that, it will backfire. We live here in peace. Our Zongo chief, Fante chief, Nzema chief sit in the Kumasi Traditional Council. You can hardly see this anywhere. Political parties should see that without Asante you cannot be what you are. We are not super humans but I will not allow anyone to cheat Asante. Political parties should know that no condition is permanent so let’s live in peace.”
Speaking on behalf of the Vice President, the Ashanti Regional Minister, Simon Osei-Mensah said, “There’s a lot to learn from the war. People taught the war will disintegrate Asanteman but that did not work. It has shown what unity can bring about.” He said Otumfuo Osei Tutu II has been a worthy King who is recognized the world over.
In his speech, the UK High Commissioner said,“ We must acknowledge the wrongs of the past.”