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Archive for the ‘The Maqdala loot’ Category

Now that Italy has returned the looted Aksum Obleisk, there is added pressure on especially the authorities of the British Library and the British Museum to repatriate a large trove of manuscripts, artifacts and up to a dozen ‘tabots’, replicas of the Ark of the Covenant- sacred to Ethiopians. This week’s Corner, sheds more light on the issue, as well as providing a fascinating yet rather sad portrayal of certain glorification of war crimes and war criminals of the Fascist era in Italy …

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Historically the courts of Ethiopian royalty moved around the length and breadth of Ethiopia as they engaged in defending the nation from insurrection and invasion. Tents therefore, were an indispensable item to serve as shelters until the monarch and his courtiers could return to their built up palaces and castles. Two particular tents which belonged to Emperor Tewodros, are featured in this week’s Pankhurst’s Corner, along with a reminder in this Ethiopian millennium year. That they must be repatriated…

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A grievous and perhaps unforgivable consequence of war is the senseless looting and plunder that victorious armies perpetrate on what is to the rampaging solider, ‘spoils of war’, but to the defeated side the very essence of their civilization and heritage. Magdalla – or to use Professor Pankhurst’s spelling Maqdalla – is remembered not only for the martyrdom of Emperor Teodros but also as an instance of cultural genocide on a mass scale. Welcome to Pankhurst’s Corner!

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My old friend Senator Berhanu Tessema, sometime Ethiopian Consul in Kenya, Ambassador in Liberia and Turkey, etc., was in his day a great book collector.

One of the books he obtained was Clements Markham’s well-known account of the British expedition to Maqdala, of 1867-8, entitled The History of the Abyssinian Expedition, which appeared in 1869.

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Ethiopia has retrieved its exiled Aksum obelisk after decades of frustrating effort, broken promises and the vagaries of time. The repatriation of this iconic relic of ancient Ethiopia has galvanized the nation into seeking the full restitution of the far flung human, artistic and literary treasures. Chief among them which are the remains of Prince Alemayahu, son of Emperor Tewodros and Empress Tiruwork. It is highly timely and gratifying at this juncture in our history, that along with other ancient personalities, that the millennium authorities and last but not least, President Girma himself are at the forefront of efforts to repatriate the remains of young Alemayehu.

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As the Ethiopian Millennium – which is nothing if not a cultural manifestation – approaches, today would seem an appropriate time to discuss the long-drawn-out question of Ethiopia’s cultural restitution.

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