Britain hands over slain Ethiopian emperor’s hair to family

British soldiers took Emperor Tewodros II's hair after the battle of Maqdala in 1868. Photo : UNIVERSAL HISTORY ARCHIVE / GETTY IMAGES

Addis Ababa, Ethiopia (ADV) – Britain has invited Ethiopians, friends of Ethiopia and the media to a ceremonial hand-over of the hair chopped off from Emperor Tewodros II, sources said Monday.

The ceremony will take place at the National Army Museum, in London on Wednesday 20 March 2019.

The move follows discussions between the Ambassador of Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia, H.E. Mr Fesseha Shawel Gebre and the Director of the United Kingdom’s National Army Museum, Brigadier Justin Maciejewski DSOMBE.

Both sides agreed that the National Army Museum and the Embassy of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia will jointly oversee the restitution and farewell ceremony at the museum,” in an inclusive manner that reflects the great love and affection in which Emperor Tewodros II is held by Ethiopia’s sizeable community in the UK and around the world” a statement said..

On behalf of the people and Government of Ethiopia, Her Excellency Dr Hirut Kassaw, Minister of Culture and Tourism, will be present to receive the human remains from the museum’s Director on the occasion.

Ethiopia and indeed Africa, is anxiously awaiting the return of stolen hair that a British army General shamefully chopped off the head of late Ethiopian Emperor Tewadros II in 1868, ADV learnt on Monday.

Early this month, reports said the United Kingdom’s National Army Museum confessed and agreed to restitute a looted braid of hair of Ethiopia’s Emperor Tewadros II any time now.

The move follows spirited moves by African and Ethiopians in April 2018, to aggressively insist that its tangible and intangible patrimony stolen by mischievous Europeans and British troops in particular, be restituted.

Reports say British expeditionary troops ransacked Emperor Tewodros II’s Maqdala fortress in northern Ethiopia in 1868 using 200 mules and 15 camels (some reports say elephants) to carry the loot of sacred manuscripts and royal gold.

The Guardian newspaper is particularly cited in its report in August 2018 that the Museum had quietly removed from display the emperor’s lock of hair after Ethiopia moved for years to reclaim stolen artefacts and relics from Britain.

Historical annals recount that Tewodros killed himself at the end of a British invasion in 1868. He opted to die than be taken a prisoner, killing himself with a gun gifted to him by Queen Victoria.

Testimonies indicate that the invaders reportedly tore off his clothes and cut off his braid which were taken to the UK along with hundreds of other objects that were plundered by the Lt Gen Sir Robert Napier force.

The treasures and animals were subsequently deposited in different institutions upon return. The expedition was originally to save British hostages held in Ethiopia.

The national museum has in the past stressed that it was considering the repatriation of artefacts on the back of Ethiopian requests. In April 2018, the UK’s Victoria and Albert, V&A Museum agreed to return on loan-term loan a gold crown among looted treasures it currently holds.

Director of National Museum of Ethiopia, Ephrem Amare said last year: “We have a lot of written documents that show they carried out planned and organized looting in Maqdala.

“We also know that these treasures are in the British Museum. It is clearly known where these treasures came to whom they belong.

Our main question has never been to have them on loan. Ethiopia’s position has always been the restoration of those illegally looted treasures. Not to borrow them.”

According to researchers, legislation in the UK doesn’t allow for objects to be removed from Brtish museums, unless there’s an act of parliament.

Ethiopia’s government says they have not received any official communication of the long-term loan.

The then Minister of Culture and Tourism, Hirut Woldemariam said: “We didn’t even ask for this. What we have asked was the restitution of our heritage, our Maqdala Heritage, looted from Maqdala 150 years ago.

“We presented our request in 2007 and we are waiting for it. We haven’t received any response so far,” the dignified minister complained.

© Bur-csa – A.H – N.A / From our regional correspondent Tamba Jean-Matthew III – African Daily Voice (ADV) – Follow us on Twitter : @ADVinfo_eng