Ethiopia has welcomed the imminent return to the country of a national treasure: strands of hair that belonged to the emperor Theodoros II, and kept since 1959 at the National Army Museum, London. It is “an exemplary gesture of good will” on the part of the museum, welcomed the embassy of ethiopia in a press release, while the restitution of works of art and goods, african purchased by the western countries during the colonization remains a controversial subject.

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in The United Kingdom, the museums are generally opposed to the refunds, arguing that the pieces preserved in museums are visible to all. But the National Army Museum is considered “happy” to respond to the request of the ethiopian authorities made in April 2018, deeming it “reasonable” because of the highly symbolic. “We are excited to be able to make it to the people of Ethiopia these human remains symbolic”, said in a press release Justin Maciejewski, director of the museum.

These bits represent “the remains of one of our leaders, the most revered and appreciated”, added the embassy. Theodoros II (or Téwodros II), a great modernizing of the Empire, is always admired by the Ethiopians for having committed suicide at the taking of Magdala in 1868, in order not to be made a prisoner by the british forces.

“Our decision to release the hair, is largely based on the desire of the lodge to the interior of the tomb” of emperor, located in a monastery in northern Ethiopia, has also explained Terri Dendy, in charge of the case at the National Army Museum. The museum and the ethiopian authorities will discuss on Thursday the modalities of restitution.

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The National Army Museum claims to have obtained these strands of hair with “of the family of an artist who had painted the emperor on his death bed”. The embassy says on its side that they have been picked up by a british expeditionary force after the suicide of the emperor. At the time, queen Victoria had sent its troops to Magdala, where the emperor had his court, officially for the purpose of freeing of british prisoners held in the citadel. This expedition also resulted in the looting of more than 500 ancient manuscripts and scrolls, two gold crowns, crosses and a chalice in gold, silver and copper, paintings and icons, clothing, royal and ecclesiastical, as well as shields and arms made between the Fourteenth and the Nineteenth century.

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