Renowned Egyptian Archaeologist and former Minister of State for Antiquities Affairs of Egypt, Zani Hawass, has said the governments of Nigeria and Egypt should work together ensure the return of African artefacts stolen by European colonisers.
In an exclusive interview with ARISE NEWS anchor Ojy Okpe at the Giza pyramids, Hawass said it was time for Africa as a whole to demand its artefacts back from Europe, and revealed that he has begun a petition to this effect, which has amassed hundreds of thousands of responses.
The Egyptologist said, “I know that Nigeria has history, and it’s beautiful history. And you know, I felt sad one day, and I was in Belgium and I saw this museum of Africa. I looked at every option that came from Africa. It has a sad story, all these great monuments of great history in Nigeria and monuments was taken by force. It is time now for us to bring back all these monuments.
“I have a history of returning the stolen artefacts of Egypt, and… Nigeria should follow what we did.
“Museums should stop buying stolen artefacts, cause there are many artefacts that are taken till today, and museums buy these artefacts. And this is why I said I am going to bring back every object for reprobation.
“I returned back 6,000 artefacts stolen from Egypt, by force, by fighting, all of them. And I did announce recently that the bust of Nefertiti in Berlin, Rosetta Stone in the British Museum… should come back. Now I am writing a petition to ask for the return of Rosetta Stone, and this petition is signed by more than 200,000 people now, I need 1 million.”
Suggesting closer cooperation between Nigeria and Egypt concerning this matter, Hawass said, “I need to talk to authorities of Nigeria to tell them, how can we cooperate, Egypt and Nigeria, to bring back our artefacts from the British Museum. Because, you know, recently 2,000 artefacts are stolen from the British Museum. How can we trust they preserve Nigeria’s artefacts and Egypt’s artefacts? And 2000 artefacts were stolen, we need our objects back.
“I did like what happened by president Macron of France. He said recently we took all the treasures of Africa out of our museums, it is time to return these artefacts, but we really need to cooperate.”
Hawass then suggested that the countries of the world come together to conduct a conference in which to discuss these issues, saying, “I really think the best thing that we are going to do now is to make a conference. Bring all the countries in Africa and also Beirut and Italy and Athens to meet together and try to change the UNESCO convention.
“We need the UNESCO to help us to return these artifacts back because the convention in 1970 was really bad. It did not help us, it helped the people who steal.”
Describing his need for Nigeria to get its artwork back, he said, “I know the history of Nigeria, and this is why we really need to cooperate. I want the people of Nigeria to be proud of their heritage, and all of them to participate and united and fighting to return your heritage back, this is very important. And the second important thing is also to learn about your heritage.
“Artwork fascinates me a lot, and every piece of artwork in Nigeria, it brings the history back. And this is why we need all of us, the people of Nigeria and Egypt, and I’m really really willing to go and meet the people there and advise them and tell them, how can we work together in bringing the Egyptian heritage and the Nigerian heritage back?”
Hawass then mentioned that Africa needs to show to the world that it cares about its heritage as he said, “I went for a debate, an Oxford students debate, and I had people on the other side against me.
“³The people on the other side, why do you send your monuments to Africa? They have no good museums, they don’t care about their heritage. Then I built this museum to show to the whole world that we have a better reason than in Europe.
“The grand museum is the best museum in the world, and this is why all these museums, it’s a sign to tell the whole world that we care about our artefacts.”