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Friday, July 24, 2009

Head of State: King Badu Bonsu's Head Returned to Ghana

The pickled head of an African chief murdered by Dutch colonialists almost 200 years ago was on its way back to Ghana yesterday, at the end of a strange voyage through the darkest corners of colonial history.

Preserved in a jar of formaldehyde, the head was discovered gathering dust in a laboratory in the Leiden University Medical Centre by Arthur Japin, a best-selling Dutch author, when he was researching The Two Hearts of Kwasi Boachi, his novel about 19th- century Africa. It had been there since its arrival in the late 1830s from what was then called the Dutch Gold Coast and is today Ghana.

The head belonged to none other than King Badu Bonsu II and on Thursday, the chief's descendants gathered at the Dutch Foreign Ministry for the handing-over ceremony. Dressed in dark robes and with red sashes around their necks, they toasted their hosts in Dutch gin before sprinkling more of the alcohol over the ministry floor in a rite of purification. They then signed a book acknowledging receipt of the head, which was expected to arrive with them in Accra last night on a KLM flight from The Hague.

The ceremony drew a long-delayed line under a bitter episode towards the end of Dutch involvement in what was then known as the Gold Coast, the strip of West Africa plundered by every European colonial power from the 15th century onwards.

link: Bring us the head of King Badu Bonsu, said Ghana – and the Dutch said yes - Africa, World - The Independent


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