Most museums in the United Kingdom are filled with some of the valuable items the British stole from Africa during the colonial era. This era was filled with some horrific experiences that led to the loss of these cultural heritages that, to date, are yet to be returned to some of the Britain colonised countries in Africa even after the end of colonialism.
This has seen some of the affected African countries petition for the return of these items. However, the agitation has been met with different resistance from the British government.
If the valuable items the British stole from Africa are returned, one thing is sure, their museums and historical centres might be bare. Here are some of the African items lost to the tides of colonialism.
Great Star of Africa diamond from South Africa
The great star of Africa is the biggest diamond in the world, weighing about 530 carats. This rarity makes it one of the most esteemed possessions of the late Queen Elizabeth II, with a worth of about $400 million.
The great star was mined from South Africa in 1905. After being presented to Edward VII, historians said the item was looted or stolen by the British colonialists from the country. Today, the stone is part of the sceptre of the late queen Elizabeth II.
Benin Bronze from Nigeria
The Benin Bronzes are a collection of metal plaques and sculptures used to decorate the palace of the old Benin Kingdom, now Edo State. This was during the reign of the late Oba Nogbaisi Ovonramwen. These historical items were carved out of ivory, brass, ceramic and wood for the ancestral altars of the past kings and queens.
Unfortunately, these rare items were carted away in 1897 by the British to punish the Benin people for their attack on a British diplomatic expedition. Despite this historical record, the British Museum claims most items were given to the museum in 1898 by the Foreign Office and the Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty.
Maqdala treasures from Ethiopia
These are items taken from Abyssinia, currently known as Ethiopia. The Maqdala treasures comprise an 18th Century gold crown and a royal wedding dress.
The crown is known for its silver and copper lattice designs and religious images. On the other hand, the royal wedding dress symbolises the Ethiopian Orthodox Church.
This was taken in 1868 by the British army from the Maqdala, the northern citadel capital of the reigning ruler, Emperor Tewodros II. The attack was to retaliate against the King for detaining the British consul.
The items are said to belong to the late widow of Emperor Tewodros II, Queen Woyzaro Terunesh.
Rosetta Stone from Egypt
This is one of the most valuable items taken away from Africa’s first civilised country, Egypt. Since its discovery, activists and archaeologists have been petitioning for its return to its homeland.
The stone dated back to 196 before Christ (BC) and was acquired after Britain won the war with France in the 1800s. Currently, the 1.12m (3ft 6in) high Rosetta Stone, a broken part of a bigger slab, is in the British Museum.
The stone is a stele made of granodiorite and engraved with ancient Egyptian text. The text is an Egyptian hieroglyph – a writing system that uses pictures as signs. Priests primarily used it in 196 BC during the rule of pharaoh Ptolemy V. The language uses three forms of the same inscription in three languages: Greek, hieroglyphs and demotic Egyptian.
It is believed that the British acquired it after defeating Napoleon Bonaparte under the terms of the Treaty of Alexandria in 1801. In 1802, George III gave it to the British Museum.
Bangwa Queen from Cameroon
The Bangwa Queen represents the power and health of the Bangwa people. The 32in (81cm) tall Bangwa Queen is one of the world’s most famous wooden carvings for its sacred importance.
The object is believed to have been given or taken by the German colonial agent Gustav Conrau in 1899. The art item ended up at the Museum für Völkerkunde in Berlin and was later sold in 1926 to an art collector.
It ended with an American art collector Harry A Franklin in 1966 for $29,000. After his death, it was sold for $3.4million in an auction.