Britain has revealed that it is negotiating with Zimbabwe over the repatriation of remains thought to belong to fighters from the African country’s struggle against its colonisers, currently held in the Natural History Museum in London.
Zimbabwean president Robert Mugabe said in a speech at the weekend that British settlers had in the late 1800s taken the skulls of several celebrated resistance fighters in what is known locally as the “First Chimurenga” as “war trophies”, and called for their return.
“We are told that skulls of our people, our leaders, are being displayed in a British museum and they are inviting us to repatriate them. We will repatriate them, but with bitterness, questioning the rationale behind decapitating them,” Mr Mugabe told thousands of people at the annual national holiday honouring fighters who died in the war to end white minority rule.
“The First Chimurenga leaders, whose heads were decapitated by the colonial occupying force, were then dispatched to England, to signify British victory over, and subjugation of, the local population.
“Surely, keeping decapitated heads as war trophies, in this day and age, in a national history museum, must rank among the highest forms of racist moral decadence, sadism and human insensitivity.”
On Thursday night, the Foreign Office confirmed that “remains of Zimbabwean origin” were in London and it was waiting for Zimbabwe to send technical experts to liaise with museum staff.
Mr Mugabe said his government would consult with traditional leaders about how to bury the remains at the country’s “sacred” shrines.
Reports in July state that the skulls included those of Mashayamombe Chinengundu of Mhondoro and Chief Makoni Chingaira of Rusape, who were beheaded by British invasion forces at the height of Zimbabwe’s first war of resistance against white settlers in the 1890s. The war broke out in Zimbabwe between the indigenous Shona and Ndebele communities and the white British settlers from 1896 to 1897.
(Thanks to Genevieve Rose-Illbruck for original post).