The National Army Museum has announced its readiness to repatriate to Ethiopia two locks of hair taken from the head of the emperor Tewodros II who ruled the African British colony in the 19th century, The Guardian reported. The UK museum believes such a gesture is very important to the collection because of its historical connection.
The emperor Tewodros II is an iconic historical personality for the Ethiopians, that’s why the decision of the UK museum to return royal’s hair is pretty logically and timely. On Monday, the National Army Museum (NAM) on Monday said it had agreed to a formal request for the return of objects “considered to be of cultural sensitivity to Ethiopian citizens”.
According to the Ethiopian government, the display of the emperor’s hair was “inhumane” and barbaric. The Ethiopians want the hair returned so it can be interred with Tewodros at the Trinity Monastery in the northern part of the African country.
The head of collections at the UK museum, having spent considerable time researching the provenance and cultural sensitivities around this matter, NAM believes the Ethiopian government claim to repatriate is reasonable and the UK museum is pleased to be able to assist.
“Our decision to repatriate is very much based on the desire to inter the hair within the tomb alongside the emperor,” Terri Dendy of NAM added.
The Ethiopian embassy in London warmly welcomed the decision of the museum. In its official statement, the diplomatic mission highly appreciated such decision.
“For Ethiopians everywhere, as the locks of hair represent the remains of one of the country’s most revered and beloved leaders, a display of jubilant euphoria is to be expected when it is returned to its rightful home in Ethiopia,” statement reads.
British museums have resisted requests to return hundreds of objects from the time which are in their collections, although Tristram Hunt, director of the Victoria and Albert Museum, has suggested the idea of a long-term loan.
The National Army Museum has now agreed to return the artefact but says it is not returning any other items of African origin. In fact, such returning of the part of the museum collection is unprecedented, said the experts.
Hundreds of treasures were plundered by the British, including a gold crown and a wedding dress which are in the collection of the V&A. The NAM said the locks of Tewodros’s hair were given to it in 1959 by the family of an artist who painted the emperor on his deathbed. One of the locks was framed with a letter and the emperor’s seal.