By: Professor Pashington Obeng
In 2019, the University of Aberdeen decided to return the sculpture of the Oba of Benin to Nigeria.
Long before President Macron of France and UNESCO started advocating for the repatriation of African cultural heritage to Africa, the Akan of Ghana have epitomised restitution through their ‘Sankofa’ art pattern, a pictograph of a bird with its feet facing forward while its head is turned backward carrying an egg in its mouth. The Sankofa symbol, which translates into “going back to collect” or “retrieve” inspires, educates, heals, and emboldens Africans and Afro-descendants, and all, to appreciate and reclaim the enduring values of the past to forge a viable future.
The powers of rightful ownership are encapsulated in the Akan Twi saying to the effect that, Dea ode nadee de ne benkum na egye nade which means the rightful owner of any item or property does not need to apologize when they repossess their property. It calls for concerted efforts and participation of various international and national agencies, academics, civil society and non-governmental organisations and African traditional authorities to enhance and facilitate the retrieval of all aspects of the African heritage that have been expropriated.
About the Author:
Professor Pashington Obeng is Director of Culture and Education, Pan African Heritage Museum. He is also a Governing Board member, African University College of Communications, Ghana. Prof. Obeng specializes in Indian Ocean & Transatlantic African Diaspora studies, Anthropology of religion in continental Africa & New World Afro-Atlantic areas, and cultural communication focusing on Black filmic representations.