Museum on the right side of history

The mummy of Peten Amun at the Durban Natural Science Museum.

The mummy of Peten Amun at the Durban Natural Science Museum.

Published Jun 5, 2021


The Durban Natural Science Museum's offer to return a mummy stolen from Egypt is the correct move.

It would be the reciprocal move to the repatriation of Sarah Baartman's remains from France in 2002.

Moreover, mummies are not abstract objects; they are, in fact, the mortal remains of a person and deserve to be treated with the same respect which would be accorded to the body of any person from the Western world.

The museum's move reignites the debate on mostly old colonial powers holding on to artefacts looted from their former colonies.

Holding on to historical objects acquired through theft is immoral, more so in the face of requests from the country of origin for their return.

Such objects are essential parts of the culture and history of the countries where they were produced, and should be returned so their people can appreciate their heritage. Most often looted from Third World countries, these people are unable to travel to view what was stolen from them.

The argument that many Third World countries do not have the facilities to care for these treasures may have been true once, but it is certainly not true of all these countries today.

In any event, it would be like a thief holding on to your car because you don't have a garage to park it in.

In the face of recalcitrance from former colonial powers, the Durban Natural Science Museum will eventually be found to have been on the right side of history.

The Independent on Saturday

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