Apartheid Museum’s lights turned off amid African museum’s push for return of precious artifacts from the UK

The world-renowned Apartheid Museum in South Africa’s capitol city of Johannesburg recently went black. MSN and various African media reported (February 22), that:

Apartheid Museum[Johannesburg] City Power has disconnected electricity supply to the Apartheid Museum and other business centres due to millions of rands in outstanding debt.

City power said the businesses targeted were given pre-disconnection notices that were ignored, with the Apartheid Museum being cut off for owing the utility R1.8 million.

The Museum includes exhibitions on Mandela, Mandela’s presidency, segregation, and race classifications.  According the Museum’s site:

South Africa’s struggle for liberation has been a journey of pain and strife. Freedom brought peace to our land in 1994 after centuries of colonialism and more than 40 years of life under apartheid.

African museums pressure Oxford University and the London Natural History Museum for return of items

British MuseumThe crisis at the J-burg Apartheid Museum occurs at precisely the same time that museums across Africa are pressuring UK and other European countries to return priceless artifacts gathered during the colonial era.

From the AP, July 2021,

Africa sees some artifacts returned home but seeks far more

The wooden stool is permanently exhibited at the University of Oxford, one of at least 279 objects there taken from Bunyoro-Kitara kingdom during the colonial era. Oxford has resisted attempts to have the stool repatriated, saying it was donated by a royal from a breakaway kingdom.

“It’s quite frustrating,” said Rwamparo, a deputy prime minister and minister for tourism for the kingdom. “The best is for them to swallow their pride, like the French and the Germans have done, and return the artifacts.”

The article notes that France and German are both working with Uganda and other African nations to return items, but the UK remains reluctant.

RwandaLondon’s British Museum by comparison “is difficult to penetrate,” said Nkaale. “We can start with those that are willing to cooperate. It is not useful to fight these people.”

South Africa is one of the nations pushing for a return of their artifacts.

Similar efforts are underway in South Africa, where the Ifa Lethu Foundation seeks to repatriate a range of items taken during the apartheid era, often by diplomats or private collectors

Rwanda, known for one of the worst genocides in human history, is another country wanting the UK to return items.

English advocate and conservative podcast host Carl Benjamin (Sargon of Akaad) had this to say, via Twitter:

My view, if we dug it out of the ground, you probably didn’t care about it in the first place.

Even widely respected paleo-anthropologist University of Wisconsin Evolution Sciences department head Dr. John Hawks sides with the African nations on artifacts returns.  He Tweeted February 24:

Wow.  BBC reports that British museums are losing the expertise and skill to care for archaeological objects.  Time to be repatriating many objects instead of claiming that their nations of origins can’t care for them properly.

Hawks was referring to a BBC article, Feb. 24,

England’s archaeological history gathers dust as museums fill up

Uganda » Apartheid Museum in Johannesburg power cut off for non-payment of light bill: Owes R1.8 million Rand (= $98,000) » Human Evolution News » 1Troves of ancient artefacts unearthed during building and infrastructure works are gathering dust in warehouses as England’s museums run out of space, the BBC has learned.
Archaeologists say this is a missed opportunity for people to learn about their history and heritage.
The objects range from fine Roman metalwork to bronze age pottery.
“The clock is ticking – we have four or five years before we really do start seeing massive problems,” said Barney Sloane, national specialist services director at Historic England.


Note – See our related article from November, 2021,

War in Ethiopia: priceless 1st Human fossils in Addis Ababa, Lucy (Australopithecus) in danger?

EthiopiaTigray rebels based in northern Ethiopia have closed to within 200 miles of the capitol of Addis Ababa… The National Museum of Ethiopia is located in the heart of Addis Ababa.  It houses some of the most precious artifacts ever recovered in Ethiopia, including mid-evil period artwork, religious icons, clothing and costumes of past Ethiopian rulers, jewelry, and weaponry.

Reuters reported that museums in the nothern part of the country in the war zone had already been damaged in the conflict.

The year-old conflict in northern Ethiopia has taken a toll on the country’s ancient cultural heritage sites as well as inflictng an enormous human cost. Some have been damaged by shelling, artefacts have been looted…

Update! The war in Ethiopia officially ended last November when a peace treaty was signed between the breakaway (northern) Tigray minority and the government in Addis Ababa.  However, the Ethiopian government is pressuring international authorities to end investigations into alleged war atrocities and genocide. (ref. Reuters, Feb. 27)



Author Eric

FSU grad, US Navy Veteran. Houston, Texas

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Join the discussion 8 Comments

  • Duncan says:

    The sad reality is that anthropology is dependent upon the favor of backward and unscrupulous regimes for access to onsite data.

    Letting white men dig always opens up blackmarket looting.

    Bribing officials is a major pipeline of revenue.

    Artifacts are held hostage to extract political concessions and institutional funding.

    Research opportunities are doled out by tourism schedules.

    Religious zealots destroy artifacts saved by heretics.

    Squatters deface and repurpose anything and everything without compunction and regardless of its cultural heritage and significance.

    Stuff indiscriminately gets blown up, razed and macheted in the Third World all the time.

    China only allows research the Communist party thinks is to their advantage and it dogmatically promotes the narrative that China has been the center of all humankind. Today’s “Native Americans,” the last of a string of primitive aboriginals there, claims continental and cultural ownership of everything back to the dawn of time.

    The notion that grifters, chauvinists, thugs, and tribesmen should be the stewards of humanity’s heritage is flat-out retarded thinking.

  • Duncan says:

    As for paleoanthropology, take pity on Lee Berger and his minion John Hawks. They have no choice but to kowtow to the brutal tribe presently overrunning South Africa if they want to keep their access open.

    But it seems Hawks is now drifting out of his lane of expertise into recent archaeology and committing cardinal error. It appears he’s enslaved himself to an axiom of ideology: Individuals tend to integrate and incorporate beliefs that support their self-interests.

  • Eric says:

    I have noticed John Hawks being a little more woke-ish in his Tweets lately.

    As for the other, it’s so sad. To think that precious human remains from hundreds of thousands of years ago, from millions of years ago, could be trusted in the hands of 3rd world primitive countries is absolutely frightening.

  • Erik says:

    A black, communist, South African museum not paying their bills, who could’ve predicted that?

    The British Museum could give it’s African collection back to the South African government, and then quickly buy them all back on the black market!

    • Duncan says:

      . . . and then they’d demand all artifacts be returned to their “country of origin” — as if they had more connection with them than the Swedish Bikini Team.

      Old scam.

      Here, American Indian tribe settles grievance for $ with government, pisses it away, then files again for more.

      Lather. Rinse. Repeat. Until the end of time.

      Makes the lawyers, kickbacked politicians, and casino kingpins happy too.

  • Eric says:

    Thanks for the comments guys. Keep ’em coming.

  • Eric says:

    Duncan – Lol. Of course, you are welcome to submit articles for the site. I’d make them look really nice. My contact info is on the Site info page.

    BTW, site traffic is very steady 150-200 unique visitors a day.

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