ANTIQUES Roadshow has sparked outrage after a guest was told to ‘give items back to Ethiopia’ in ‘stupid’ scenes.
Fiona Bruce revealed Sunday’s episode’s theme was “items that provide a fresh insight into Britain’s role in Africa in the early 20th century and the contradictions and complexities of colonialism.”
Expert Ronnie Archer-Morgan is extremely knowledgeable about ethnic, tribal and folk art and was intrigued to meet two women who were the grandchildren of Sir Harold Kittermaster.
Sir Harold was governor of the protectorate from 1926 to 1931 and was given a golden robe by Haile Selassie, the then Emperor of Ethiopia.
The men were good friends and the Emperor gifted the robe to Sir Harold as a mark of their respect for one another.
Ronnie valued the robe at between £4,000 and £5,000 before asking the women: “So if there’s a call for these things to be repatriated, would you be happy to do that?”
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Sir Harold’s granddaughters said “Absolutely!” but some viewers raged at the prospect considering the circumstances of how the item came to be in their family.
Even leading historian Professor David Abulafia at Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge said the question was “senseless”.
He told The Telegraph: “Even for those who believe in returning objects, this simply doesn’t qualify because it was an open gift.
“It shows how people get caught up in a fashionable idea and they don’t actually think through the fundamental principles.
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“In this case, we’re dealing with a gift – and to whom should it go?
“Ethiopia – well the Empire has been dissolved so you have a revolutionary government and they don’t qualify, while Somaliland is an anomalous state which has no international recognition, so where onwould one send it?
“Some of these completely unhistorical demands for restitution are extraordinary, it felt like it was the answer they were expected to give.”
Antiques Roadshow viewers were also outraged, with one writing on social media: “Must confess, I thought that a bizarre question. It was a gift, it wasn’t looted, stolen or seized. Like hell i would repatriate it. Stupidity.”
Another added: “I was taught to return a gift was an insult or rude. This was a gift.
“Antiques Roadshow is such an informative show but I fear people will now hesitate to bring along anything in case they get ambushed by Fiona Bruce and her team.”
A BBC spokesman said: “Where we have relevant details about an item, experts explore the wider questions of provenance in relation to a variety of contexts, including the of the British Empire, which in this instance was around Britain’s role in Africa in the early 20th century.”
Antiques Roadshow airs on Sundays on.