Many of them arrived here by donation, yet others have come into our hands for very different reasons, mainly as trophies and spoils of war. The circumstances surrounding their acquisition pose a difficult question: Is it right for us to keep them in our museum? or should they be viewed in their original context?
The Benin Tusk
|Detail - the Oba (divine king) wears the sacred beads of kinship across his chest|
Arabic Manual of Astronomy and Divination
Looted from M'wele (modern day Kenya, east Africa) in 1895 this manuscript is equipped with diagrams, charts and text that prophecise future events. Divination was not merely a cultural hobby, but a highly regarded social science of the time, for African people believed that the true explanations for all events could be known.
Translation: "The Star-signs: The Aquarius: God knows the month of the Aquarius (which is the eleventh zodiac) brings hot wind with humidity, settled when the moon goes down. This is a good time for digging wells, rivers, plantations, plotting and trading...anyone who travels at the end of the month of the Aquarius will always come back with good things..."
The Lord of the Dance
|Detail of plate - Natraja/ Shiva performing his cosmic dance|
The Sultan's visit
Abdulaziz modernised the Ottoman (Turkish) navy and was the first Ottoman Sultan to visit western Europe in 1867. On 18th July he visited London where he was invited to a banquet by the Corporation of the City of London. Above is a commemorative medallion made to mark this occasion, the City of London (figure on the left standing in front of St Paul's Cathedral) clasps the hand of the Ottoman Empire (figure on right standing in front of the Mosque of Sultan Ahmed).