Ethiopian papers call for the return of Africa's looted artefacts

Addis Ababa- Ethiopia (PANA) -- African artefacts looted or inadvertently taken a way from Africa by colonialists and invaders of the continent must be repatriate d , Ethiopian newspapers suggested this week.
The return of these stolen items is essential to heal and garner national awaren ess of Africa's culture and history, says the weekly Sub-Saharan Informer.
Arguing that the return of historical and archaeological relics as well as other works of art is not negotiable, the paper stresses: "This applies to all the co u ntless artefacts and manuscripts that continue to remain in the possession of pr i vate collectors and museums who have no moral right to possess them.
"No matter the reputation of the possessor of these stolen items, the items rema in stolen property and should be repatriated to its rightful owner.
" The focus of the Ethiopian papers was the Axum Obelisk, the 160-tonne and 24-met re stone pillar that was curved by Ethiopians 1,700 years ago and looted by Ital i an fascist invaders in 1937 at the order of Benito Mussolini.
For years, the obelisk was a landmark in the city of Rome until its return to Ax um, a small town in Tigray Regional State of northern Ethiopia, in April 2005.
"Through collective efforts our nation is proud to have finally achieved what at various moments in the last 67 years had seemed impossible," writes the weekly b usiness tabloid Capital after the official rededication of the Obelisk at its or i ginal location 5 September 2008.
The paper pays tribute to the Italian government for its co-operation in restori ng the Obelisk to its rightful homeland and covering all expenses for its transp o rt and re-erection at Axum.
Having the Obelisk once again gracing their landscape at this time is a momentou s event for the Ethiopians as they celebrate the end of the first year of the th i rd millennium and ring in 2003, according to the Ethiopian calendar, 11 Septembe r 2008 (Gregorian calendar).
"That historic and much travelled monolith shall serve as a stout reminder that having brought it back to its original spot, we collectively embrace a vision to build a nation that would be a worthy home," adds the Capital.
In the same vein, the Sub-Saharan Informer insists that the return of the Obelis k should not be the end of the long battle for recovery of ancient artefacts tha t are still treasured outside the country.
The paper rallies all African nations to keep on fighting for the return of the looted artefacts so that African peoples can regain possession of their ancestra l property.
"Preserving our historical and cultural wealth is a task that we should not put off any longer.
We should all understand the need to preserve these artefacts.
"It is the task of everyone involved to make sure that these legacies are preser ved and passed on to future generations," the paper adds.
Commenting on the same issue, The Ethiopian Herald says the Obelisk festivity an d other celebrations staged throughout the year to mark the new Ethiopian millen n ium, symbolised the peoples' true identity and, therefore, must be preserved for posterity.
"As such, they also signify metaphorically the determinations of the peoples of Ethiopia to renounce decadence and neglect, and revive their ancient civilisations in a w ay that befits our contemporary world.
"The Axum obelisks epitomise the aspirations of their builders, our ancestors, w ho hoped to transmit these aspirations and wills to us, their descendants, in an internal form, built in stone on the strongest foundation.
" The government-run daily recalls that the government of Emperor Haile Selassie i nitiated negotiations with Italy for the return of the obelisk to Ethiopia in 19 5 6.
Attempts to come to an agreement dragged on for 50 years and involved historians , researchers, diplomats and the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organis a tion (UNESCO), among others.
Ethiopia still demands possession of several ancient artworks that were taken fr om the country to European galleries without its consent.
These include writings and crafts that immortalise the nation's culture and history for future generati o ns.

13 september 2008 08:03:00

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