British museum agrees to return Ethiopian emperor's hair

The hair belonging to Emperor Tewodros II will be repatriated after a request from Ethiopia, National Army Museum says.

An outcry erupted last year in Ethiopia over the display of the hair belonging to Emperor Tewodros II in an exhibit by a UK museum [File: Andrew Heavens/Reuters]

Correction 04/03/2019: A previous version of this story reported the two locks of hair belonging to Emperor Tewodros II were displayed in an exhibit by the Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A). That was incorrect. The hair was never displayed by the V&A. It was displayed by the National Army Museum.

Two locks of hair belonging to widely revered Ethiopian Emperor Tewodros II will be repatriated after a request from Addis Ababa, the National Army Museum in the UK announced Monday, as more African countries seek to reclaim heritage they say was taken decades, even centuries, ago.

An outcry erupted last year among some Ethiopians over an exhibit by another institution, the Victoria and Albert Museum, on the 1868 British expedition to what was then called Abyssinia. During that campaign, in which 13,000 troops were deployed to free several British hostages, the emperor killed himself and his fortress was captured and looted.

Ethiopia's government at the time said it would use "whatever legal and diplomatic instruments" to secure the return of related items including an intricate golden crown.

That another British museum, the National Army Museum, held locks of the emperor's hair was seen as particularly sensitive. "Displaying human parts in websites and museums is inhumane," Ethiopia's minister for culture and tourism, Hirut Woldemariam, told The Associated Press last year.

That museum has said the hair was donated in 1959 by relatives of an artist who painted the emperor on his deathbed. Read more...

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