The Victoria and
Albert Museum (V&A) in London is making Ethiopia an odd offer – they are
willing to loan the country back a collection of artifacts that have been on
display in the museum for the past 146 years. But Ethiopia says that is not good
enough; and rightfully so.
The artifacts in
question were looted from Ethiopia in 1868 during what is euphemistically
referred to as the British Expedition to Abyssinia. Not really an expedition,
this was really a revenge war between Ethiopia and the British Empire. The
Ethiopian emperor had taken a small number of British missionaries captive to
punish Britain for failing to offer him military assistance in a time of need.
The British responded by sending their armed forces into battle, decisively defeating
the emperor, and looting an assortment of artifacts while they were in town.
The V&A has
offered the works back on a long-term loan instead of returning them, with the
strange explanation that giving them back would take too long, and be too
complicated a process. Considering the Ethiopian government filed an official
restitution claim in 2007 asking for the return of the artifacts, this is an
especially unsatisfactory response, especially since the entire so-called
“exhibition” in which the artifacts were originally stolen took less than six