The camera follows Erik Killmonger around the museum, asking about each African artifact that catches his attention. The museum curator answers the passive questions, but stumbles when he challenges her explanation of a mask from Wakanda he plans on stealing. She protests, and these lines follow:
“How do you think your ancestors got these? You think they paid a fair price? Or did they take it, like they took everything else?”
Like the scene straight out of Black Panther, Ethiopia is calling for centuries old artifacts to be returned from Britain after they were looted in early raids and placed in the possession of British museums, government institutions, and private owners.
The demand comes in response to a new exhibit at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London that showcases stolen Ethiopian relics from the Battle of Maqdala in 1868. The items include a golden crown, clothes from then Empress Tiruwork Wube and the bones of her son, Prince Alemayehu.
That’s right. They stole a prince.
Organizations, such as the Association for the Return of Maqdala Ethiopian Treasures (AFROMET), have been petitioning and fighting to get these artifacts back for years. The Ethiopian government formally requested the Queen for the return of heirlooms back in 2007. Yet Britain repeatedly resists all urges to part ways with the priceless items. In fact, when Ethiopia brought up this issue just this month, the director of the Victoria and Albert Museum stated that they would be open to negotiate a “long term loan” with Ethiopia.
Of course, this did not sit well with Ethiopian officials. Why would Ethiopia need to borrow something that they rightfully own?
Alongside the increase of African pride and appreciation of culture being felt across the globe, Ethiopia’s demand for its property comes at a pivotal moment. Countries that have been historically illustrated as the colonized or third world are realizing their rights and the power they hold. And with countries such as India and Nepal being assured that sacred statues will be returned to their respective countries by the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Britain should follow suit.
Erik Killmonger ends up stealing the mask, but hopefully Britain will hand over the artifacts to Ethiopia before that occurs in real life.
Photo Credit: Victoria and Albert Museum