UK returns 39 Ugandan cultural artifacts looted 100 years ago

UK returns 39 Ugandan cultural artifacts looted 100 years ago
The State Minister for Tourism, Mr Martin Mugarra (2nd left) and a team from Ministry of Tourism receive the container with the cultural artifacts, which were repatriated to Uganda from the United Kingdom, at Entebbe Airport at the weekend.

Kampala, Uganda | By Michael Wandati | The Ministry of Tourism, Wildlife and Antiquities has successfully repatriated 39 Ugandan cultural heritage artifacts from the United Kingdom based Cambridge University, where they have been kept for more than 100 years.

These significant pieces were originally taken from Uganda in the late 19th and early 20th centuries by British colonial officials, anthropologists, missionaries, and soldiers.

A Qatar Airways flight arriving from London landed at Entebbe International Airport at 2 PM, carrying crates filled with human artifacts taken from Buganda, Bunyoro, Lango, and Ankore during that period.

In a symbolic ceremony to welcome the cultural treasures, Martin Mugarra, the State Minister of Tourism, highlighted that while many Ugandan tourism artifacts remain in the United Kingdom, this marks the largest single return of cultural objects from all African nations.

Minister Mugarra noted that the repatriated artifacts would enhance the range of tourism products available in Uganda.

“This an important addition it will increase tourism products and boost tourism and cultural heritage of the country,” he said.

“The ministry will continue to analyse the artefacts at the Uganda Museum and is expecting all Ugandans and foreign visitors to see the historical objects returned from Europe.”

The return of Uganda’s cultural heritage artifacts from Cambridge University Museum. Courtesy photos

The artifacts, which had been housed at Cambridge University’s Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology for over a century, were returned after negotiations between Uganda and the British institution.

Jackline Besigye Nyiracyiza, the acting commissioner of museums and monuments at the Ministry of Tourism, Wildlife and Antiquities, noted that the collection includes five human remains, specifically the Balongo from Buganda, which were taken from the Wamala tombs.

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“We are going to return the artefacts to their respective communities/kingdoms and negotiations are going on,” Ms Nyiracyiza said.

“We are grateful as a Ministry for the funding support extended from the Andrew Mellon Foundation who facilitated the research and transportation of the important the artefacts back to the communities. It took us over $100,000 to repatriate these artefacts.”

This marks the second time Uganda has repatriated cultural heritage artifacts from Cambridge University. The first instance occurred in July 1962 during the independence celebrations, when the Kibuuka Regalia were returned.

Derrick Peterson, a Professor of museum studies and anthropology at Michigan University, stated that it is essential for African identity, which was taken by colonial powers, to be restored in order to showcase Africa’s rich cultural heritage and history.

The sacred objects will be acclimated to Ugandan conditions before being returned to their respective communities.