Pyramids Egypt

Africaa��s stolen treasures

Bruce Ndlovu

Africa, the much vaunted cradle of mankind, is a continent blessed with natural beauty and some of the worlda��s most treasured species of wildlife.

Exotic creatures, countless deserts, majestic rivers and lush forests rest side by side to give the continent the natural scenery that has made it a haven for tourists and the place to visit for a sightseer. Simply put, you have not travelled or seen the world unless you have seen the African continent at length.

From the majestic Victoria Falls to the towering Mount Kilimanjaro, Africa is dotted by some of the worlda��s most spectacular wonders.

Despite many of the continenta��s most treasured sights being a natural blessing that cannot be erased by any force, the craftsmanship of Africans have also gone a long way in complementing the continenta��s natural beauty, with some of the most beautiful hand crafted ornaments and artifacts in world coming from the continent.

While the pyramids of Egypt and the Great Zimbabwe stand as some of the most revered examples of African industry and craftsmanship, the continent is littered with examples of the artistry of her people.

However, while the glory of structures like the Great Zimbabwe and the pyramids cannot be stolen from Africans, the same cannot be said of other artifacts that, during the colonial era, proved much easier to whisk away.

While colonial spin doctors tried to muddy the waters of history and claim Africans did not have the capability to build such majestic and eternal monuments, this has been a theory that has been easily disproved with time.

Although that bit of history, they did manage to walk away from the continent with others in the form of precious artifacts and ornaments that have, years after colonialism, still not been returned to their rightful places of origin.

The halls of the prestigious British museum in London are often described as the thievesa�� kitchen of plundered African history. Like other museums dotted around Europe, they shine even today with the stolen works of some of Africaa��s most artistic sons and daughters.

These works which include an Ivory Mask are thought to have been unearthed somewhere in Africa around 16AD.

Evidence, dating back to ancient times, slavery era and colonialism, and corroborated by historians, anthropologists, and archeologists, confirms massive looting of African artifacts by Europe and America. In 1899, for instance, the famed kingdom of Benin was burnt down by the British colonialists.

Artifacts worth hundreds of millions of dollars were looted and shipped off to European museums where they continue to make more money. Most of the artifacts in Africa today, such as the Igbo ukwu bronze pot, and the Nok culture remain only because they were unearthed towards the later part of the 20th century.

According to Nigerian author and lecturer Dr Chika Ezeanya, the reluctance by countries that orchestrated the looting of African artifacts is a mere reflection of their desire to keep a stranglehold on African history and its interpretation.

By holding on to the artifacts, she observes, museums in former colonial countries also perpetuate the myth that Africans cannot take care, or admire, their own artifacts.

a�?African intellectuals and everyday citizens need their minds developed, and this needed development ought to be founded on authentic African ideas and realities. Quite a few of Africaa��s representation of what is authentically hers are held in museums across the western world.

Africaa��s intellectual advancement, which will feed authentic advancement in every other area are held in these artworks. Art is not art for arta��s sake, especially with regards to African art. Africaa��s artworks represent the continenta��s historical facts and knowledge systems, which it needs to build upon for its future development,a�? she said.

While most of the continenta��s most valued treasures that were looted during colonial times have not seen the African sun again, a few have been recovered by African countries that have led spirited campaigns to regain some of their looted treasures.

A decade ago Ethiopia successfully fought for the return of one of its national religious treasure, the Axum Obelisk.

The 1 700-year-old stone obelisk looted by Italy nearly 70 years ago arrived in Addis Ababa to a rapturous welcome.

Thousands of people lined the streets to see what they consider an important symbol of their identity restored to them.

In 2003, a German museum handed back to Zimbabwe a soapstone carved bird after 100 years.

The Zimbabwe bird is an emblem of the country, appearing on the national flag and currency.

The Ethiopian Obelisk and the Zimbabwe bird are just two of the many traditional and sacred objects that vanished from Africa and ended up in museums, learning institutions or private homes abroad during the colonial era.