Glasgow holds ceremony to repatriate artefacts to India

Objects were previously looted from sacred places, such as temples and shrines, and given as gifts to the city’s museum collections.

A ceremony has been held in Glasgow, Scotland, to officially repatriate seven Indian cultural artefacts looted during British colonial rule.

Dignitaries from the High Commission of India joined members of Glasgow Life, the charity that manages the Scottish city’s museum collections, at the transfer of ownership ceremony on Friday, following more than 18 months of talks.

Six of the items were stolen from northern India in the 1800s, and a seventh was illegally purchased after being stolen from its original owners.

All seven objects were looted from sacred places, such as temples and shrines, and given as gifts to the Scottish city’s museum collections.

Museum conservator Stephanie De Roemer holds a ceremonial Indo-Persian sword during a transfer of ownership ceremony at Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum in Glasgow [Andy Buchanan/AFP]

“Glasgow has led repatriation efforts in the UK since 1998,” said Duncan Dornan, head of museums and collections at Glasgow Life.

“We look forward to continuing our work with the Indian authorities to deliver the safe return of these artefacts.”

In all, Glasgow is set to return 51 items to the descendants of their rightful owners from India and Nigeria, as well as the Cheyenne River and Oglala Sioux tribes in the US state of South Dakota.

In March, Glasgow City Council apologised for the city’s role in the Atlantic slave trade, after a study into streets, buildings and individuals linked to the practice.

Glasgow’s repatriation commitment is part of a wider reassessment of the provenance of items in Western museums, in the wake of anti-racism movements around the world.

Earlier this year, two British universities returned two Benin bronzes, looted by British colonialists in the 19th century, to Nigeria.

A ceremonial Indo-Persian sword is shown during a transfer of ownership ceremony
The artefacts were looted during British colonial rule [Andy Buchanan/AFP]

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