Blair urged to return treasures
Ethiopian campaigners have asked UK Prime Minister Tony Blair to return hundreds of rare manuscripts and religious artefacts.
The treasures were looted from the palace of an Ethiopian emperor, after his defeat by a British force in 1868.
A letter was handed to one of Mr Blair's aides while he was in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa for a meeting of his Commission for Africa.
The treasures, which include a gold crown, are worth $3bn, campaigners say.
But the most valuable item is one of two copies of the Kebra Negast - or Glory of Kings - Ethiopia's holy book which is held in the British Library in London.
Incidentally, at the moment I'm working with an undergraduate who is writing an honours dissertation on the Kebra Negast, which is a retelling of the stories of Genesis, Exodus, and Solomon.
The Art Newspaper also has a long article on the looted artifacts and manuscripts from Maqdala: "UK museums face controversial Ethiopian legacy." One set of objects is not permitted to be viewed by anyone but senior clergy in the Ethiopic Orthodox Church. There's also a bit more on the manuscripts:
The British Library holds a large collection of manuscripts, around 350 of which came from Maqdala. One, an 18th-century Book of Isiah, is currently on show in the �treasures� display and the rest can be consulted on application. A spokesman explained: �There is no change in our policy. The manuscripts are freely available for study. We do not believe that the originals should be returned to Ethiopia, but any question of restitution is ultimately a responsibility for government�. The British Library, like most national museums, is not permitted to deaccession.
The Royal Collection also has important Maqdala material, including a small number of illuminated manuscripts in the Royal Library at Windsor. In 1965, during the Queen�s visit to Addis Ababa, she returned a royal cap and silver seal.
The University of Edinburgh library is currently considering the status of its 11 Ethiopian manuscripts, four of which were definitely acquired at Maqdala. A panel has been established to examine the question, but so far the university has taken the position that they should not be returned.
I wish someone would take the time to list the contents of all these manuscripts. (And what's this "Isiah"? How lame.)
But here's some excellent news from AllAfrica.com:
AAU to Introduce Master's Degree Program in Philology
Addis Tribune (Addis Ababa)
October 8, 2004
Posted to the web October 8, 2004
The Addis Ababa university (AAU) will, as of this academic year introduce a masters degree program in philology.
To mark the introduction of the new graduate program the department of linguistic of the university will hold an international symposium under the theme. " Ethiopian Philology in the 21st century" next Friday at the main campus where some 16 papers will be presented by international philologists and local academics.
In an exclusive interview with Addis Tribune ,Dr, Moges Yigezu chairman of the department of linguistic said that the program aims at producing scholars who will be stydying manuscripts written both in Geez and Arabic languages.
It's not often that philology makes it into a media headline. Strength to their arm!