Looted Great Zimbabwe national bird statues returned to first home

news-image

They figure on Zimbabwe’s national flag, banknotes and official documents — birds representing stone statues taken by colonialists more than a century ago.

The eight original sculptures hold great spiritual value for people of Zimbabwe and have been made into national emblems.

Six of the large carvings were stolen from the ruins of Great Zimbabwe, an imposing stone complex built between the 11th and 13th centuries and attributed to pre-colonial King Munhumutapa.

The palatial enclosures are now a UNESCO world heritage site situated in the southeast of Zimbabwe, 25 kilometres (16 miles) from the present day city of Masvingo.

Almost all of the prized green-grey soapstone birds that were looted have now been returned to the country.

Only one remains in South Africa, where it is kept in the house of 19th century British mining magnate and imperialist Cecil Rhodes.

In a rare move last month, four of the statues were temporarily set on the original plinths from where they were stolen at the Great Zimbabwe monument.

The heavy figurines — some standing at about 1.5 metres (4.9 feet) — were moved from an on-site museum and placed outdoors on pedestals for a photo shoot.

Their pictures were taken for a book on ancient African art – “Zimbabwe: Art, Symbols and Meaning” — to be published in September. The country marks the 40th anniversary of independence from Britain next month.

The book will be co-authored by a Zimbabwe-born duo, mother and son — Gillian Atherstone and Duncan Wylie — who now respectively live in Britain and France.

“The birds are among the most symbolic cultural objects of our time,” the head of Zimbabwe’s national museums Godfrey Mahachi, told AFP.

“They connect the present with our past.”

Great Zimbabwe ruins curator Munyaradzi Sagiya said the statues are kept inside the museum for security reasons.

“Not everyone who visits a museum is there to admire the displays,” he said.

Africa’s former colonial powers have recently come under pressure to send looted artefacts back to their home countries.

Germany returned the chopped off pedestal of one of the birds in 2003.

Zimbabwe’s late ex-president Robert Mugabe said at the time that the piece had “a very eventful if not troubled existence during its almost 100 years in exile.”

South Africa returned five other birds in 1981, one year after Zimbabwe’s independence.

The eighth remains in Rhodes’ Cape Town home.

Retrieving that statue could be complicated, said Sagiya, as Rhodes left his estate to the South African government after his death. – AFP

LEAVE A COMMENT

Comments

image

Poachers have broken into Botswana’s p Read more...

10 Aug, 2018 at 01:58 PM

image

In a sign that Botswana is likely to cli Read more...

02 Jul, 2018 at 09:26 AM

image

Gaborone - Poachers have broken into Bot Read more...

04 Feb, 2019 at 07:35 AM

image

DAR ES SALAAM - DIRECTIVES on online for Read more...

02 Jul, 2018 at 01:24 PM

image

SADC leaders meeting in Tanzania this we Read more...

19 Aug, 2019 at 01:51 PM

image

Schoolchildren and students returned to Read more...

12 Aug, 2020 at 03:55 AM

image

Windhoek - Climate financing by seven of Read more...

12 Aug, 2020 at 03:53 AM

image

The preceding meetings of the 40th Ordin Read more...

12 Aug, 2020 at 03:51 AM

image

The Mike Tyson-Roy Jones Jr exhibition h Read more...

12 Aug, 2020 at 03:49 AM

image

Windhoek – Namibia’s Chief Elections Read more...

12 Aug, 2020 at 03:47 AM

image

Lusaka - Amid myriad criticisms from soc Read more...

14 Dec, 2018 at 06:28 AM

image

FORMER Liberation Movements (FLMs) in So Read more...

16 Sep, 2019 at 12:36 PM

image

Heads of state and ministers who travell Read more...

30 Jul, 2018 at 02:01 PM

image

Windhoek - The European Union National I Read more...

01 Apr, 2019 at 12:33 PM

image

Windhoek - More than 1 000 languages are Read more...

27 May, 2019 at 12:44 AM