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Adrienne Lawrence

Legal analyst, law professor & award-winning author

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UK keeping colonialism alive and well

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Adrienne Lawrence

Legal analyst, law professor & award-winning author

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The United Kingdom has agreed to loan 23 royal artifacts taken from the Asante Empire (modern Ghana) back to a museum in Kumasi, Ghana for a term of three years. The British looted the valuable items from the Asante during the Anglo-Asante wars of 1824 to 1900.

Straight Arrow News contributor Adrienne Lawrence says that the British are keeping colonialism “alive and well” by refusing to return these and other looted items to their native homes.

These developments across the pond should remind us that the audacious nature of the colonizer spirit is alive and well today. And it must be reckoned with if we are going to have peace on a global level. Let’s be real: If the Brits had to return everything in their museums which did not originate with them, those museums would be barren. In fact, in just the Victoria and Albert Museum alone, there are 2.8 million items that belong to countries demanding repatriation. Yet the U.K. won’t do so on account of the British Museum Act of 1963 and the National Heritage Act of 1983 prohibiting the “de-ascensioning” of the items in their collections, or so they say. Yeah, the country built its wealth on the backs of nations that it raped and pillaged for centuries. And now the U.K. claims its hands are tied, and it can’t give those countries back their sacred cultural pieces because of the laws of the U.K. itself created.

The nerve!

2023 was supposed to be the year of the repatriation of artifacts. This time last year, the Houston Museum of National Sciences returned a wooden sarcophagus to Egypt that had been looted. A stolen Christopher Columbus letter was returned to Italy even though we know that dude is King Colonizer. Looted antiquities went back to Nepal. We shut down many indigenous sections of museums and returned items to tribes. The fact is the need for the reckoning is on a global scale, yet the U.K. doesn’t seem to get the message. From the Benin Bronzes to the Parthenon sculptures, the British continue their colonization by refusing to return what they have stolen.

Let’s head across the pond this week, as there is a matter there that is worth considering. The U.K. announced that it is repatriating some of Ghana’s crown jewels, returning them to the African nation after having looted them from the Asante kings during the 19th century. Britain is said to be “loaning” the Ghanaian government the 32 gold artifacts, with the expectation that Ghana will return them to the U.K. at the end of a three-year term. Yeah, the reason that they must be loaned is because the U.K. has laws banning return of artifacts to their countries of origin.

 

These developments across the pond should remind us that the audacious nature of the colonizer spirit is alive and well today. And it must be reckoned with if we are going to have peace on a global level. Let’s be real: If the Brits had to return everything in their museums which did not originate with them, those museums would be barren. In fact, in just the Victoria and Albert Museum alone, there are 2.8 million items that belong to countries demanding repatriation. Yet the U.K. won’t do so on account of the British Museum Act of 1963 and the National Heritage Act of 1983 prohibiting the “de-ascensioning” of the items in their collections, or so they say. Yeah, the country built its wealth on the backs of nations that it raped and pillaged for centuries. And now the U.K. claims its hands are tied, and it can’t give those countries back their sacred cultural pieces because of the laws of the U.K. itself created.

The nerve! 2023 was supposed to be the year of the repatriation of artifacts. This time last year, the Houston Museum of National Sciences returned a wooden sarcophagus to Egypt that had been looted. A stolen Christopher Columbus letter was returned to Italy even though we know that dude is King Colonizer. Looted antiquities went back to Nepal, we shut down many indigenous sections of museums and returned items to tribes. The fact is the need for the reckoning is on a global scale, yet the U.K. doesn’t seem to get the message. From the Benin Bronzes to the Parthenon sculptures, the British continue their colonization by refusing to return what they have stolen.

 

It enrages me to the nth degree because it simply confirms that there is no real reckoning about colonization of the Global South. Rather, the raping and pillaging continues to be proudly put on display behind glass and Britain museums, if not maybe loaned back to the originating country as though the U.K. still holds some kind of rightful claim. God forbid the Brits simply develop their own culture rather than steal that of others. Because what, by holding on to that which doesn’t belong to the Brits, they’re really kind of just underscoring the notion that raping and pillaging is their culture.

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