The Fowler Museum in L.A. Returns Seven Valuables to Ghana

The Fowler Museum at the University of California, Los Angeles, Returned Seven Asante Treasures to Ghana on February 8.

Feb 9, 2024By Angela Davic, News, Discoveries, In-depth Reporting, and Analysis
The Fowler Museum
The institution. Via Wikipedia


The Fowler Museum at the University of California, Los Angeles, returned seven royal pieces to Ghana. The museum started the transfer to commemorate 150 years after the British stole four of the artifacts. The transfer happens after the museum finishes looking into the origin of the artifacts. The pieces went missing following an invasion by British soldiers under the command of Garnet Joseph Wolseley.


The History of the Third Anglo-Asante War

A royal stool ornament (before 1874). Photo courtesy of the museum at UCLA/Gift of the Wellcome Trust.


British troops invaded Kumasi, the Asante people’s capital town in Ghana. This happened in 1874 during the Third Anglo-Asante War. Before the British took control of the area in 1900, the Asante and the British fought a total of five conflicts. In 1935, Asante attained independence. Also, joined the surrounding regions in a political union to create the nation of Ghana in 1957.


Otumfuo Osei Tutu II, the Asante people’s present leader, or Asantehene, received the pieces on February 8. Among them is an ornamental royal stool. This piece was in Asantehene Kofi Karikari’s private collection. Karikari was the monarch of Kumasi when it was overthrown. Under the terms of the Treaty of Fomena, Karikari needed to pay 50,000 pounds of gold to British forces. After that, it came up for auction by upscale jeweler Garrard & Co. and went on sale.


A sika mena, or elephant tail whisk (before 1874). Photo courtesy of the museum at UCLA/Gift of the Wellcome Trust.


Asantehene Karikari’s collection also included an additional item, a sika mena. It is an elephant tail whisk. Documents indicate that on February 5, 1874, Captain J.E. Audley Harvey stole it from the palace. A royal decorative chair and jewelry are among the other items that were returned. “At the Fowler Museum, we think of ourselves as temporary custodians of the objects in our collection”, senior curator Erica Jones said in a statement.

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The Fowler Museum Fallows Moves of Other Institutions

An Asipim, or ornamental chair (before 1874). Photo courtesy of the museum at UCLA/Gift of the Wellcome Trust.


Erica Jones also added: “In the case of pieces that were violently or coercively taken from their original owners or communities, it is our ethical responsibility to do what we can to return those objects”. The unconditional return is in line with actions taken by the Victoria & Albert Museum in London and the British Museum. These institutions granted the Asante kingdom a six-year borrow of the looted gold and silver treasure from their holdings.


Following the Fowler Museum’s 2019 funding from the Mellon Foundation, a decision took place. These funds permitted it to investigate the origins of the objects in its possession. Up until then, the museum had no information connecting the artifacts to the Third Anglo-Asante War. After conducting its investigation, the museum made the quick decision to return the artifacts.


A royal necklace or stool ornament (before 1874). Photo courtesy of Fowler Museum at UCLA/Gift of the Wellcome Trust.


“They are objects that we have in custody, not just for UCLA and the public, but also we have a responsibility, which is an ethical responsibility to the community of origin”, the museum’s director Silvia Forni said. The museum also disclosed that, with the Asante royal palace’s consent, it had taken 3D images of the artifacts before their return. Based on those scans, the Fowler intends to employ Ghanaian artists to create reproductions.

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By Angela DavicNews, Discoveries, In-depth Reporting, and AnalysisAngela is a journalism student at the Faculty of Political Science in Belgrade and received a scholarship for continued education in Prague. She completed her internship at the daily newspaper DANAS and worked as an executive editor at Talas.