In de vele jaren waarin westerse landen, ik realiseer mij heel goed dat westerse landen niet de grootste slachtoffers zijn, last hebben van terroristische aanslagen, zijn die aanslagen gericht op metro’s en metrostations, treinen en stations, vliegtuigen en vliegvelden. Het lijkt erop dat terroristen, of ‘fucking assholes’ zoals John Stewart ze noemde na de aanslagen in Parijs, een voorkeur hebben voor transport.

De aanslag op de Twin Towers in New York was in alle opzichten buiten categorie. Overigens wel een aanslag die bij het analyseren van risico’s zeer relevant werd.

De aandacht van F.A.’s verschuift. In Parijs waren een theater, een voetbalstadion en caféterrasjes doelwit.

In Brussel vond een aanslag plaats op het Joods Historisch Museum. Doelwit waren Joden, maar dan wel via hun museum.

En over musea wil ik het hebben.

Het is alweer een tiental jaren geleden dat ik werd uitgenodigd in Kopenhagen te spreken over cultuurgoed en terrorisme. Wanneer je het nu over die combinatie hebt, dan wordt gedacht aan vernietiging of roof van antiek cultuurgoed door IS, zoals in Palmyra. Hoewel er geen concrete cijfers zijn, wemelt het van de schaars gefundeerde deskundigheid over financiering van terrorisme via de illegale handel in antiquiteiten. Even schaars gefundeerd als die financieringsclaims, heb ik sterke twijfel over de impact en omvang van die handel. De experts struikelen over elkaar heen en papegaaien over de omvang van die illegale handel alsof IS daar voor een aanzienlijk deel door gefinancierd wordt. Dat kan simpelweg niet. Daarvoor is de markt te beperkt. Bij een plotselinge toename van het aanbod, daalt de waarde. Als je de TEFAF bezoekt, zie je slechts een beperkt aanbod van antiquiteiten. Hier en daar zijn wat verdwaalde stukken en er is slechts een enkeling, de onverwoestbare Jerome Eisenberg van Athena Galleries in New York, die een hele stand vult met dat materiaal. Overigens een vaak verlaten stand tussen druk bezochte andere stands.

Mijn zorg, ik durf hem haast niet uit te spreken, betreft druk bezochte nationale musea zoals de National Gallery en het British Museum in Londen, het Louvre in Paris, het Museums Insel in Berlijn, of het Rijks- en Van Goghmuseum in Amsterdam.

Ik durf die zorg nauwelijks uit te spreken omdat angstige en qua beveiliging te inerte, struisvogel, musea mij zullen verwijten terroristen op ideeën te brengen. Lijkt mij niet nodig, want er zijn toch altijd ‘meesterbreinen’ achter de aanslagen.

Toch waag ik een poging en beperk mij tot de Nederlandse situatie.

Waarom gebruiken musea geen detectiepoortjes (meer). Het Rijksmuseum had tot aan de heropening detectiepoortjes bij de bezoekersingang. Een onaangename, vliegveld-achtige apparatuur, maar effectief. Bijna dagelijks werden, voornamelijk bij scholieren, messen gevonden. Bij volwassenen werd er keer op keer in Nederland verboden pepperspray in beslag genomen. De bezoekers konden bij vertrek hun steekwapens weer ophalen.

Per uur komen gemiddeld 500 bezoekers het Rijksmuseum binnen. Bij het Van Gogh zijn dat er minder, maar niet veel minder. Hoe worden die bezoekers bij binnenkomst gescreend? Borstkloppend kondigden het Rijks en het Van Gogh enkele jaren geleden aan dat een groep van de beveiligers opgeleid is tot ‘predictive profiler’. Bezoekers worden geobserveerd op afwijkend gedrag. Knap hoor, maar voldoende effectief? Waarom niet beide: profilers plus elektronische detectiesystemen waarmee iedere bezoeker gecontroleerd wordt?

Even naar Zaventem: in de vertrekhal kon een aanslag plaatsvinden omdat iedereen die vertrekhal in kan lopen zonder controle. Daar was na de aanslag internationaal veel kritiek op.

Is dat in onze megamusea ook zo? Volgens mij worden de entreekaarten binnen verkocht en vindt pas later, bij de kaartcontrole als men vanuit de, vaak zeer drukke, centrale hal het museum in wil, iets aan screening van de bezoekers gedaan: de tassen worden binnen, in het museum, gecontroleerd. Als ze te groot zijn worden ze binnen, in het museum, ingenomen en bewaard. Een fluitje van een cent voor kwaadwillenden.

Er is geen (?) ondersteuning via detectiepoorten en elektronische screening. Met andere woorden: er is voor zelfmoordterroristen, te eng om over na te denken, voldoende mogelijkheid met bomgordel en al naar binnen te gaan en in de drukte een slachting aan te richten. Nog los van de schade aan cultuurgoed, twee vliegen in één klap, die aangericht kan worden.

Alle controles moeten, ik zou haast zeggen natuurlijk, plaatsvinden voordat men in de drukte in het museum duikt. Tassen en andere bagage moet, ik zeg weer natuurlijk, niet in het museum ingenomen en bewaard worden.

Ik heb tijdens mijn carrière als adviseur museumbeveiliging door mij bezochte musea altijd de hypothese voorgelegd: “Stel dat met succes bij u ingebroken en gestolen kan worden, gaat u dan maatregelen treffen? Is het antwoord JA, dan moet u die maatregelen NU treffen. Is het antwoord NEE, dan hoeft u ze nu ook niet te treffen”.

Voor ‘inbraak en diefstal’ kan je ieder ander mogelijk incident of calamiteit invullen.

Stel dat er succesvol een zelfmoordaanslag gepleegd wordt in die megamusea. Gaat men dan maatregelen treffen om herhaling te voorkomen? Kan men nu met droge ogen volhouden dat alle mogelijke preventieve maatregelen zijn getroffen (en kom mij nu niet aan met ‘we kunnen van onze musea geen fort maken’ want dat weet ik en ik weet ook dat dat vaak een flauw excuus is om maar niets te doen).

Als het antwoord op de vraag naar de mogelijkheid van een aanslag JA is, dan moeten NU maatregelen getroffen worden.

Voor alle duidelijkheid: ik heb met geen van de genoemde musea een professionele relatie. Het is inmiddels zestien jaar geleden dat ik werkzaam was in het Rijksmuseum. Sindsdien adviseerde ik (inter)nationaal 450 musea, bibliotheken, archieven, monumenten etc.

Van geen van de genoemde musea ken ik de ins en outs van de beveiliging anders dan wat ik observeer als ik ze bezoek.

Ik vraag alleen maar..

Ton Cremers

April 29th, 2016

Posted In: Columns Ton Cremers

Tags: , , , , , ,

 

It is our prayer that the people and the government of Austria will show humaneness and magnanimity and return to us some of these objects which found their way to your country.

The Oba of Benin, Omo N’Oba Erediauwa. (1)

After the publication of my article entitled “Looted /stolen cultural articles declared shared heritage” (2) a friend sent me from Germany a magazine with the title, “Ein Berliner Schloss fur die Welt”, (A Berlin Palace for the World), issued by the Humboldt-Forum. (3) Apart from the very misleading title, creating the impression that the future museum had been built specifically for the world and not for Germany, as evident from all available information. The publication follows the style of the British Museum which argues that the British Museum is not a British museum but a museum for the world. (4) The magazine contains many tendentious statements and articles that assume, apparently, that the German public cannot distinguish between facts and fiction.

Under the heading, Humboldt Lab Dahlem, we are informed that the African and Asian artefacts in the museums in Dahlem (a suburb of Berlin) will not only travel to the middle of the city to the Humboldt-Forum but will also be transformed in the process (“sie verwandeln sich dabei auch”) for the narratives concerning them will be different. How are the objects when they arrive in the museum (and why not other objects?) How has the viewing perspective on these objects changed and what do they still have to tell us? After these questions the author declares:

Objects have no meaning in themselves. They always play another role-for

human beings. And whoever begins to think over this changing process, will not

be able to finish with the questions posed thereby”. (5)

What the author is telling us is that objects such as the African sculptures in the

Ethnologisches Museum have no fixed meaning since meaning or importance

depends on their location and viewer. The Benin cultural artefacts, for example,

would be transformed in the process of their transfer from Dahlem to Berlin

Mitte, a journey of a few kilometres. What an extraordinary statement. Most of

us will agree that the symbolism and the meaning attached to a particular object

may differ from society to society and that what may be seen as a sign of good

luck in one culture may not have the same significance in another context. In

other words, the function and meaning of an object may vary from culture to

culture. To extend this fact to imply the transformation of objects from a short

journey in Berlin, within the same city, is a view that cannot be easily

accepted without further evidence.

Do the Benin artefacts cease to possess the meaning and importance they had in Benin through the travel to the Humboldt-Forum via London and Dahlem? This seems to be a very easy transformation. Did this also occur when the objects were transported from Africa to Europe? If so, why do museums still attach African labels to these objects and assign their origins to Africa?

The author may be reflecting here the spurious theory of shifting values that the

organizers of the 2007 exhibition, Benin: Kings and Rituals-Court Arts from

Nigeria (6) tried to advance as justification for holding on to the looted

Benin Bronzes.

Read full text at: http://www.museum-security.org/WILL HUMBOLDT.doc

October 12th, 2015

Posted In: Dr. Kwame Opoku writings about looted cultural objects

Tags: , , , , ,

2015-09-11 11:47 GMT+02:00 russell darnley <maxdarn@gmail.com>:

DSC00018

The  Revisionist Position

Current Director of the British Museum Neil MacGregor is the architect of a revisionist rubber band theory of history. When all else fails and the arguments that the Greeks can’t look after the Parthenon Marbles, or have no place to keep them, can no longer be sustained he snaps back into a neo-imperial justification for retaining them.

When they were in Athens no one in the ancient world talked of them, just of the building,”[1] he asserts, without the slightest respect for evidence. Then he attempts to establish the basic premise in the neo-imperial idea underpinning his belief that the sculptures can only be fully understood in the British Museum. He insists that, “It is only when they could be seen at eye level they became the stars. In Athens they were architectural decoration. In London they became great sculptures.”[2]

What Neil MacGregor claims is that these works from 5th century BCE Athens can only be fully understood through the lens of a collection gathered when the British Empire was at its zenith. Indeed he takes the argument further often insisting that only in the British Museum can the sculptures from the Parthenon be fully understood because only there can they be readily compared with other examples of human achievement.

He went on to tell the Evening Standard that “If you can take them out of the politics of modern Greece, what you are looking at are great works of art. What Elgin did was astounding. He wanted to show the world these were supreme objects.”[3]

No he didn’t Neil. Certainly the British Museum makes the undocumented claim that “ from 1803 it had been Elgin’s declared intention to present the sculptures to the nation, on his return to England in 1806.” No evidence is provided to substantiate this claim. It seems very much as though this is just your revisionist view of history, interpreting the past retrospectively to suit your present. It seems like a self-serving invention to insist that what Elgin did was a conscious move to show the world.

What Elgin Actually Did

In reality Elgin stored the Marbles at various placees in England finally transferring them to London, and placing them at the Duke of Richmond’s, in Privy Gardens; removing tbem afterwards and eventually placing them in his house in Park-Lane, and in Burlington-House where they spent time in a garden shed and coal shed where a damp acidic environment prevailed, putting them at great risk.

It wasn’t until 1810, when in desperate need of money, that Elgin started informal negotiations with the British Government with a view to selling the Parthenon Marbles and other materials he had gathered from the Acropolis and from many other sites. As we now know, he eventually sold the Parthenon Marbles, and some other material forming the Elgin Collection, in 1816. The British Museum advises that in the ‘Elgin collection’ then besides objects in stone we should include those made of other materials, such as Greek vases, bronzes, jewellery, plaster casts and drawings.

Not to leave this matter at the level of mere counter assertions, let’s look at the material on Elgin’s exploits in Greece published by a colleague in 1815. By this time Elgin’s funds were running desperately low so it appears he commissioned his former chief private secretary William Richard Hamilton to prepare a catalogue of the things he had acquired in Greece. This catalogue was published under the title Memorandum on the subject of the Earl of Elgin’s pursuits in Greece [4].

The Memorandum does not only list what he collected but it sets out to describe and account for Elgin’s motivation in removing antiquities from Greece.

On the Parthenon

The Temple of Minerva[5] had been converted into a powder magazine, and been completely destroyed, from a shell falling upon it, during the bombardment of Athens by the Venetians towards the end of the seventeenth century;” [6]

DSC00044

The following is offered as justification for Elgin’s actions:

Many of the statues on the posticum of the Temple of Minerva, (Parthenon.) which had been thrown down by the explosion, had been absolutely pounded for mortar, because they furnished the whitest marble within reach; and the parts of the modern fortification, and the miserable houses where this mortar was so applied, were discovered.”[7]

Then it adds, “it is well known that the Turks will frequently climb up the ruined walls, and amuse themselves in defacing any sculpture they can reach; or in breaking columns, statues, or other remains of antiquity, in the fond expectation of finding within them some hidden treasures.”[8]

Although no evidence or any other witnesses are cited there might be other sources of evidence, but the implication is that Elgin’s word is sufficient. Granting Elgin the benefit of the doubt for the moment. We are drawn to this conclusion in the Memorandum when it’s immediately suggested that:

Under these circumstances, Lord Elgin felt himself impelled, by a stronger motive than personal gratification, to endeavor to preserve any specimens of sculpture, he could, without injury, rescue From such impending ruin.”[9]

Then immediately the Memorandum’s author castes doubt on these motivations informing us that:

He had, besides, another inducement, and an example before him, in the conduct of the last French embassy sent to Turkey before the Revolution. French artists did then remove several of the sculptured ornaments from several edifices in the Acropolis, and particularly from the Parthenon. In lowering one of the metopes, the tackle failed, and it was dashed to pieces; but other objects from the same temple were conveyed to France, where they are held in the very highest estimation, and some of them occupy conspicuous places in the gallery of the Louvre.” [10]

At this point it’s not clear whether he is concerned because the French broke one of Parthenon’s Metopes or whether he saw them as competitors in that they had removed sculptured ornaments “particularly from the Parthenon”, apparently since before the French Revolution of 1789. The revolution was ten years earlier. When the Memorandum goes on to note that, “the same agents were remaining at Athens during Lord Elgin’s embassy, waiting only the return of French influence at the Porte to renew their operations.”[11] It’s definitely starting to look as though he regarded the French as competitors.

In summation the Memorandum indicates that all of these matters were motivating factors.

Actuated by these inducements, Lord Elgin made use of all his means, and ultimately with such success, that he has brought to England, from the ruined temples at Athens, from the modern walls and fortifications, in which many fragments had been used as so many blocks of stone, and from excavations made on purpose, a greater quantity of original Athenian sculpture, in statues, alti and bassi relievi, capitals, cornices, frizes, and columns, than exists in any other part of Europe.”[12]

Again we are reminded that the Parthenon was a ruin. Then just in this brief passage the extent of Elgin’s assault on the Parthenon is made plain. He also reminds us that “many fragments had been used as so many blocks of stone” in “modern walls and fortifications” but he is careful not to specify exactly what was used in this way.

What Elgin took

Metopes

A Lapith fighting a Centaur

A Lapith fighting a Centaur

We are told that he several of the original metopes from the temple and assured that Christian zeal, Turkish barbarism and the explosion caused by Venetian shelling has ensure that “with the exception of those preserved by Lord Elgin, it is in general difficult to trace even the outline of the original subject.”[13] The extent of this untruth is plain to anyone who visits the Acroopolis Museum and views the Metopes let behind and now on display in the museum. In the British Museum there are 15 of the 92 metopes from the Parthenon.

Freize

The Memorandum doesn’t refer specifically to how much of the Freize Elgin removed but the British Museum advises that it has 247ft of the original 524ft of frieze

freize

Detail from the Memorandum

The pediment and tympanum

The tympanum is the recessed triangular space forming the centre of the pediment. Venetian shelling caused damage to the west pediment. A janissary dwelling that had been constructed below the western face of the Parthenon so it was purchased and the greatest part of the statue of Victory, the torsi of Jupiter and Vulcan, the breast of the Minerva, together with other fragments were retrieved. Then Elgin moved on to the eastern pediment where he “obtained leave, after much difficulty” to demolish another house but found nothing. It seems reasonable to assume that this house had to be purchased as well, but the Memorandum avoids issue.

Presumably, now with a clear inducement of further windfalls janissiary were keen to sell off other potential sources of ‘treasure’.

What the British Museum says it holds

In the British Museum there are 17 pedimental figures; various pieces of architecture from the Parthenon

Just as an aside, the British Museum claims that “All the sculptures from the Parthenon in the British Museum are on permanent public display.” These images from the first week of August, 2015 give the lie to this claim.

hoarding

Inducements and bribes

Now the Memorandum moves into a euphemistically clever account of what happens next advising us that “the Turk, who had been induced, though most reluctantly, to give up his house to be demolished, then exultingly pointed out the places in the modern fortification, and in his own buildings, where the cement employed had been formed from the very statues which Lord Elgin had been in hopes of finding. And it was afterwards ascertained, on incontrovertible evidence, that these statues had been reduced to powder, and so used. Then, and then only, did Lord Elgin employ means to rescue what still remained from a similar fate.”[14]

Induce is an interesting word and can often be used, in such circumstances as a soft term for bribery. Of course once funds are flowing there is likely to be further inducement to find other potential sources of ‘treasure’ and to add fuel to the fire of Elgin’s passion by assuring him that there was a mounting threat to the remaining statues.

The ‘incontrovertible evidence’ remains Elgin’s word, no other evidence for the alleged grinding up of statues is offered.

It is alleged that the authority for Elgin’s presence on the Acropolis was a Firman. Even in the alleged translation, his rights only extended to sketching, making plaster castes and collecting elements that had fallen. An Italian translation of the so-called firman has been used in the past in an attempt to prove that Elgin was authorised to remove and export the sculptures. The document in question is actually a poor translation of an Italian translation of what is alleged to be the original Ottoman document.

It is most likely that Elgin’s documentation was not a Firman just a letter purportedly signed by Kaimmakam Seyid, Abdullah Pasha, Deputy to the Grand Vizier. Without the standing of a Firman it was just a form of reference. Elgin effectively admits this later when he says ‘in point of fact, all permissions issuing from the Porte to any distant provinces, are little better than authorities to make the best bargain that can be made with the local magistracies’[15]

To ‘make the best bargain’ could be re-phrased as negotiating a bribe.

In addition to the Pediment sculptures he continued on into the Opisthodomos of the Parthenon, the treasury room, where he removed inscriptions,[16] presumably comprising sections of wall.

Other materials taken from the Acropolis

He continued obtaining a Doric and an Ionic capital from the Propylaea,[17] which is described as ruins.

Freize from the Victory Temple was also removed. The Memorandum advises that it “required the whole of Lord Elgin’s influence at the Porte, very great sacrifices, and much perseverance, to remove them; but he at length succeeded.”[18]

Three other temples on the Acropolis are mentioned as dedicated to Neptune and Erectheus; Minerva Polias, the protectress; and, Pandrosos.

Original blocks of the frieze, as well as a capital and a base, were taken from the Neptune and Minerva Polias temples. Elgin also took a Caryatide statues from the Pandrosos temple. Since this temple had seven statues of Caryan women supporting it instead of Ionic columns, his actions were inimical to its continuing stability.

Beyond the Acropolis

Elgin’s interests extended well beyond the Acropolis and the grandiosity of his operation negate the conservationist gloss he attempts to cast over his operation on the Acropolis. An attempt is made to render these activities as being a type of windfall arising from an attempt to map ancient Athens.

The Memorandum advises that, “The ancient walls of the city of Athens . . . have been traced by Lord Elgin’s . . . as well as the long walls that led to the Munychia and the Piraeus. The gates, mentioned in ancient authors, have been ascertained: and every public monument, that could be recognised, has been inserted in a general map”[19].

For all of this to be done extensive excavations were necessary and these were conducted at the Great Theatre of Bacchus ; the Pnyx, and at the theatre built by Herodes Atticus. Then his team excavated the Tumuli of Antiope, Euripides, and others finding “a complete and valuable collection of Greek vases” from Athens, Corinth, Sicily, and Etruria

One grave yielded objects of particular importance, the Memorandum noting that

It “ . . . has furnished a most valuable treasure of this kind. It consists of a large marble vase, five feet in circumference, enclosing one of bronze thirteen inches in diameter, of beautiful sculpture, in which was a deposit of burnt bones, and a lachrymatory of alabaster, of exquisite form ; and on the bones lay a wreath of myrtle in gold, having, besides leaves, both buds and flowers.”

Other treasures taken from the excavations include an ancient sundial, from the Theatre of Bacchus, a large statue of the Indian, or bearded Bacchus. Then Elgin took to using his letter of authority to approach the Archbishop of Athens and to carry away “several curious fragments of antiquity”[20] from “churches and convents in Athens”.[21] This search furnished many valuable bas-reliefs, inscriptions, ancient dials, a Gymnasiarch’s chair in marble”[22]

Purchases were also made from Athenians who had encountered ancient fragments when ploughing their fields.

A word from Tom Minogue

Tom Minogue has made a detailed account of Elgin’s booty reminding us that many observers of the Parthenon Marbles lose sight of the fact that at the time the Westminster parliament bought them they were only part of a large and varied collection of items stolen from sacred sites all over Greece. 

References

[1] http://www.standard.co.uk/lifestyle/london-life/keeping-our-marbles-neil-macgregor-on-why-lord-elgin-s-rescued-sculptures-are-the-perfect-tool-for-9920278.html

[2] ibid

[3] ibid

[4] https://archive.org/details/earlofelginspursuit00hami

[5] The Parthenon

[6] Memorandum on the subject of the Earl of Elgin’s pursuits in Greece. London: Printed for William Miller Albemarle Street. By James Moyes, Greville Street, Hatton Garden Page 7

[7] Op cit page 7 – 8

[8] Op cit page 8

[9] ibid

[10] Op cit page 8-9

[11] ibid

[12] Op cit page 9-10

[13] Op cit page 11

[14] Op cit page 15

[15] Greenfield. J, The Return of Cultural Treasures, 2nd ed., Cambridge University Press, 1996, pp. 76-7

[16] op cit page 16-17

[17] op cit page 20

[18] op cit page 21

[19] op cit pages 28-29

[20] Op cit page 32

[21] ibid

[22] ibid

September 11th, 2015

Posted In: Parthenon Marbles

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

I have just had a Damascus moment. The scales have fallen from my eyes. I have seen the light. The British Museum (left) is unquestionably the greatest cultural institution on earth. We all know this, but how many of us fully appreciate it until we cross the threshold and enter its beautiful, spacious and subtly illuminated galleries containing a multitude of numinous art and artefacts representing the zenith of human creativity. 

What few people realise is that the multitude of objects that make up the British Museum’s collections (which date from darkest antiquity to the present day), can only be properly appreciated in this context, in this very museum, right here in Bloomsbury, London. 
Take, for example, the colossal Assyrian winged bulls (right), the beauty and power of which can only be fully comprehended when juxtaposed with an excruciatingly poetic marble nude from the High Classical period of ancient Greece. Similarly, how could we possibly assimilate into our enfeebled twenty-first century minds the grace and charm of the Greek contrapposto without seeing it in proximity to the stiffly marching figures of Ancient Egypt in the adjacent gallery? These objects speak to each other, and to us, with startling lucidity.
Read Tom Flynn’s full blog at:
http://tom-flynn.blogspot.co.uk/2015/08/lets-hear-it-for-british-museum.html

August 18th, 2015

Posted In: Parthenon Marbles (DO NOT CALL THE ELGIN MARBLES!)

Tags: , , ,

2 600 Zim artefacts looted

Shingirai Huni

Lovemore Mataire Senior Reporter
The national director of the National Museums and Monuments of Zimbabwe (NMMZ) Dr Godfrey Mahachi yesterday said more than 2 600 Zimbabwean cultural objects currently on display in the British Museum must also be repatriated together with the skulls of the heroes and heroines of the First Chimurenga.

Dr Godfrey Mahachi said most of the objects were looted soon after the enactment of the Witchcraft Suppression Act of 1899.

“On the basis of this act, whites could confiscate any object regarded as having spiritual value or significance. A good example is Mkwati’s walking stick. It was viewed as a spiritual object, it had ritual powers and strength,” Dr Mahachi said.

Some of the objects confiscated, he said, included mbira (traditional thumb piano), mutsago (wooden headdress), drums, spears taken from prominent warriors or military leaders, snuff boxes, wooden utensils, hides and hakata (divination bones).

He said Mkwati’s stick was returned in 1998, but the other Zimbabwe Bird taken from Great Zimbabwe was still to be repatriated from Cape Town South Africa where it is in Cecil John Rhodes’ private museum.

“We believe that the Government is engaging those that require to be engaged on this one (the Zimbabwe Bird) for it is one of the most important cultural objects bearing our national identity,” Dr Mahachi said.

He said Mkwati’s walking stick was part of Baden Powel’s collection which he acquired during his incursion in the Second Matabele War in 1896 when he sought to relieve the British South African Company under-siege in Bulawayo.

Dr Mahachi said the confiscation of the objects was part of the colonialists’ strategy to pacify the indigenous population. He said the cultural objects exemplified the richness of human civilisation and a manifestation of people’s contribution to human development.

“The objects tell our story in terms of how we relate among ourselves, with nature and they are about our identity as a people. The reason why the Asians have made economic strides is because they premised their development in their culture because within every culture exist nuggets of wisdom,” said Dr Mahachi.

He said the practice of using human heads as trophies was prevalent during colonial conquest as it presented evidence of colonial conquest of legendary African military strategists like Chief Mashayamombe who killed many whites including Norton, a farmer based in present day Norton Town.

Decapitation, Dr Mahachi said, was a symbolic act by colonialists in proving their successes in overcoming iconic military strategists like Mapondera, Mashayamombe, Mashonganyika, Chingaira Makoni and Mutekedza Chiwashira.

“It was also a psychological warfare; imagine what it did for the people to bury their leader minus his head. It was even worse in Namibia were the Germans ruthlessly murdered the Herero. The barbaric and savage behaviour was just out of this world,” Dr Mahachi said.

He said the world was coming to the acknowledgement that the idea of keeping human trophies of foreign nationals in their museum was unethical and wrong and that there was need for decency in the treatment of human remains.

Source: 2 600 Zim artefacts looted | The Herald

August 14th, 2015

Posted In: Ton Cremers

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

2 600 Zim artefacts looted

Shingirai Huni

Lovemore Mataire Senior Reporter
The national director of the National Museums and Monuments of Zimbabwe (NMMZ) Dr Godfrey Mahachi yesterday said more than 2 600 Zimbabwean cultural objects currently on display in the British Museum must also be repatriated together with the skulls of the heroes and heroines of the First Chimurenga.

Dr Godfrey Mahachi said most of the objects were looted soon after the enactment of the Witchcraft Suppression Act of 1899.

“On the basis of this act, whites could confiscate any object regarded as having spiritual value or significance. A good example is Mkwati’s walking stick. It was viewed as a spiritual object, it had ritual powers and strength,” Dr Mahachi said.

Some of the objects confiscated, he said, included mbira (traditional thumb piano), mutsago (wooden headdress), drums, spears taken from prominent warriors or military leaders, snuff boxes, wooden utensils, hides and hakata (divination bones).

He said Mkwati’s stick was returned in 1998, but the other Zimbabwe Bird taken from Great Zimbabwe was still to be repatriated from Cape Town South Africa where it is in Cecil John Rhodes’ private museum.

“We believe that the Government is engaging those that require to be engaged on this one (the Zimbabwe Bird) for it is one of the most important cultural objects bearing our national identity,” Dr Mahachi said.

He said Mkwati’s walking stick was part of Baden Powel’s collection which he acquired during his incursion in the Second Matabele War in 1896 when he sought to relieve the British South African Company under-siege in Bulawayo.

Dr Mahachi said the confiscation of the objects was part of the colonialists’ strategy to pacify the indigenous population. He said the cultural objects exemplified the richness of human civilisation and a manifestation of people’s contribution to human development.

“The objects tell our story in terms of how we relate among ourselves, with nature and they are about our identity as a people. The reason why the Asians have made economic strides is because they premised their development in their culture because within every culture exist nuggets of wisdom,” said Dr Mahachi.

He said the practice of using human heads as trophies was prevalent during colonial conquest as it presented evidence of colonial conquest of legendary African military strategists like Chief Mashayamombe who killed many whites including Norton, a farmer based in present day Norton Town.

Decapitation, Dr Mahachi said, was a symbolic act by colonialists in proving their successes in overcoming iconic military strategists like Mapondera, Mashayamombe, Mashonganyika, Chingaira Makoni and Mutekedza Chiwashira.

“It was also a psychological warfare; imagine what it did for the people to bury their leader minus his head. It was even worse in Namibia were the Germans ruthlessly murdered the Herero. The barbaric and savage behaviour was just out of this world,” Dr Mahachi said.

He said the world was coming to the acknowledgement that the idea of keeping human trophies of foreign nationals in their museum was unethical and wrong and that there was need for decency in the treatment of human remains.

Source: 2 600 Zim artefacts looted | The Herald

August 14th, 2015

Posted In: Ton Cremers

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