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AFROMET asks for divided drum

AFROMET 01 December 03

AFROMET sent the following letter to the commanding officers of the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards, the Kings Own Royal Border Regiment and the Duke of Wellington's Regiment (West Riding), asking for the return of three pieces of a drum taken at Maqdala.

Dear Sir,

May I draw your attention to the fragment of an Ethiopian royal drum, which is currently in the possession of your esteemed Regiment. This drum, which has an interesting history, was looted by members of the British Expedition to Maqdala (Magdala) in April 1868.

At the end of the Expedition the drum was broken into three pieces, which were then divided among three British regiments: the 3rd Dragoon Guards (Prince of Wales's), now the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards); the 4th (or Kings Own) Regiment of Foot, now the Kings Own Royal Border Regiment; and the 33rd (Duke of Wellington's) Regiment on Foot, now the Duke of Wellington's Regiment (West Riding).

The original drum, we would emphasise, played an important role in traditional Ethiopian court formalities, as can be seen by consulting the Scottish explorer James Bruce's classic work "Travels to Discover the Source of the Nile (Edinburgh, 1790), volume I, p.602.

The looting of Maqdala, which was the then Ethiopian capital, involved extensive seizure of Ethiopian state and religious treasures, as described in many contemporary accounts, for example in Henry Morton Stanley's well-known work "Coomassie and Magdala" (London, 1874), pp. 457-9.

Ethiopians over the years have yearned for the restitution of the loot from Maqdala, and a number of such items have in fact been returned, most notably at the time of Queen Elizabeth's State Visit to Ethiopia in 1965, when a royal cap and imperial seal were given back. AFROMET feels that the time for the return of the drum to Ethiopia, and for its ensuing reassembly, has also arrived. We feel that such restitution and reassembly would be a great act of justice, as well as an important act of cultural renewal.

You may have read in the press that a wooden altar slab also looted from Maqdala, was found last year in St John's Episcopal Church in Edinburgh, and that the church authorities decided on its repatriation. When the artefact in question was finally returned to Ethiopia, a large proportion of the Addis Ababa population took to the streets to welcome it. AFROMET believes that the return of the drum would be greeted with similar rejoicing.

Restitution of the drum would do much to enhance the long-established friendship between the people of Britain and Ethiopia. AFROMET would therefore appeal through you to your Regiment to listen to this appeal for the restitution of your third portion of the drum.

Looking forward to your sympathetic interest,

Yours Sincerely.

Richard Pankhurst,
Vice-Chair, AFROMET

Press coverage

Plundered drum plea
Daily Record 13 Dec 03

Plea for city regiment to return relic
Evening News, Edinburgh 12 Dec 03

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