With King Tut’s exhibit making its last rounds throughout the world before returning to it’s permanent and rightful residency in Cairo, Egypt, his ancient artefacts serve as a reminder that there are still many treasures that lay caged in cold cultural prisons far from their homes. However, the countries from where these artefacts originate are demanding them back.
Artefacts like the Pantheon’s Marble from Greece, the Rosetta Stone from Egypt, the Benin Bronze from Nigeria, and many more are all being called back by their respective countries, but the British museum has denied all requests. This feud has sparked the involvement of political figures, academics, and protestors alike to condemn these countries who are rejecting their responsibility towards reparations.
Do you ever wonder how a variety of treasures from a variety of cultures ended up in the British Museum? Or in Amsterdam’s Rijksmuseum? Or in New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art? Some, of course, are lent out or bought, others, however, were obtained during the height of imperialism, years of pillaging, plundering, and black market deals.
Egypt has especially been vocal about their cultural artefacts, “Egyptian history is not for sale,” says dozens of protest posters outside an auction house where a brown quartzite bust of King Tutankhamun was sold at for 4.7 million in London despite the demand for its return to its country of origin.
Countries like France and the Netherlands have been more responsive to the request for the return of foreign treasures. President Emmanuel Macron announced that they would return 26 artefacts from the Quai Branly Museum back to Benin and work to change their policy so that countries who ask for their artefacts back would get them back. The Rijksmuseum’s director from the Netherlands has condemned the fact that many of their pieces have been gained as a result of invasive colonialism and have been in the works on returning some of the artefacts.
While steps are being taken to undo all the harm colonialism and imperialism has caused, places like the U.K. have lagged and countries like France have put the responsibility on the victims to take back their culture when it should be on them to actively take accountability for the harm they’ve caused.