Culture Corner South Africa’s Stolen Artefacts

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A strand of hair from an Ethiopian prince who passed away in 1879 and items seized by the British military during a 19th-century clash with Emperor Tewodros II of Ethiopia have been repatriated to the East African nation. This is because the movement to return colonial-era artifacts, currently housed in European and North American museums, to their places of origin and communities is gaining momentum. While the movement signifies an ethical imperative to address the past's cultural plunder and subjugation of indigenous communities, it also highlights the importance of local perspectives, acknowledging that these artifacts hold profound cultural and historical value for their original custodians. When the Queen of England passed away last year, calls grew in South Africa for Britain’s royal family to return the world’s largest known clear-cut diamond, known as the Cullinan, which was “handed over” to the British royal family by South Africa’s colonial authorities. Philosopher and Lecturer at the University of Witwatersrand Dr Aribiah David Attoe joins Nhlanhla Sehume for the conversation.


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