Spurred by the prevailing exemplary relations between the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia (FDRE) and the Government of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, the Ethiopian Embassy in London has been engaged proactively with the Victoria and Albert Museum, London (V&A) in an effort to explore avenues for cooperation.

 

To this end, the Embassy warmly welcomes and greatly appreciates the V&A’s decision to host “Maqdala 1868” – a year-long display of 20 rare Maqdala artefacts – as well as its support of a long-term loan request to Ethiopia, of artefacts seized by British troops 150 years ago.

 

The Embassy views the V&A’s goodwill gesture as a step in the right direction and a springboard for further collaborations around conservation, research and curatorial exchange.

 

By coincidence, this encouraging development takes place at a time when Ethiopians are commemorating the 200th anniversary of both the birth of the most illustrious victim at the Battle of Maqdala, Emperor Tewodros II, and of course the 150th anniversary of his death.

 

In his speech on the occasion of the V&A display launch, H.E. Ambassador Hailemichael Aberra Afework will say that two UK monarchs – George V and Queen Elizabeth II – returned crowns taken at Maqdala to Emperor Haile Selassie. “Even the Napier family themselves have recently returned a necklace and a prayer scroll to the Institute of Ethiopian Studies in Addis Ababa. Yet further proof that times change and so do attitudes!” The Embassy avails itself of this auspicious occasion and calls on all custodians of items taken away from Maqdala to proudly take a leaf out of the V&A’s book.

 

The items include:

Crown: Probably made in Gondar, Ethiopia, around 1740. Museum no. M.27-2005. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Dress: Around 1860, Ethiopia. Museum no. 399-1869. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

 

Chalice: Made by Walda Giyorgis in Gondar, Ethiopia, 1735-40. Museum no. M.26-2005. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

 

The Ethiopian government has long appealed for the return of the treasure, brought back by a British military expedition after securing the release of British hostages imprisoned by Ethiopian Emperor Tewodros II. The V&A said it had consulted an advisory group including Ethiopian church leaders and historians about the show. A spokeswoman for the museum said: “We welcome the opportunity to discuss how to ensure the widest possible access to this material … including long-term loans to an appropriate venue in Ethiopia.”

 

Source: Ethiopian Embassy Press Office and www.vam.ac.uk