Zimbabwe News and Internet Radio

Britain not sure if Nehanda and Kaguvi skulls are in its museums

Britain’s Natural History Museum (NHM) said it was not sure if the skulls of a former Zimbabwean spiritual leader, Mbuya Nehanda, and several chiefs who were killed during the First Chimurenga were in its galleries.

The First Chimurenga was a Ndebele-Shona revolt against the British South Africa Company’s administration that took place in 1896-97.

In 1898, Mbuya Nehanda and Sekuru Kaguvi who led a rebellion were hanged and many Zimbabweans suspect the skulls are being kept in the British Natural History Museum in London.

President Emmerson Mnangagwa unveils a statue in Harare of Mbuya Nehanda, a spirit medium who led the uprising against European settlers. Photograph: Aaron Ufumeli/EPA
President Emmerson Mnangagwa unveils a statue in Harare of Mbuya Nehanda, a spirit medium who led the uprising against European settlers. Photograph: Aaron Ufumeli/EPA

Recently a group of Zimbabweans, including others from the diaspora, organised what they called the #Bringbackourbones campaign. They held several protests over that last month demanding the return of the remains of the spiritual leaders.

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The NHM is believed to be keeping more than 20,000 human remains collected during the peak of colonial wars in Africa. They are displayed as war trophies in Britain.

Stefan Simanowitz, a British journalist, author, and a human rights activist on Monday claimed the NHM spokesperson said the library had no evidence it had skulls of Mbuya Nehanda and Sekuru Kaguvi.

“We have the remains of eleven individuals from Zimbabwe but have found no evidence to suggest that they are the remains of Mbuya Nehanda or others associated with the First Chimurenga – nor have we found any evidence that any of these individuals have ever been held by the Museum.

“We have shared all the information we have with the authorities in Zimbabwe and are continuing discussions with the Zimbabwean government and people and hope to host a delegation early in 2022 to discuss the repatriation of the remains we do have,” a museum spokesperson told Simanowitz.

The journalist who doubles as the media manager at Amnesty International Europe posted on his official Twitter handle and slammed the British government for keeping ‘looted treasures’ in its museums and universities.

“A statue of spiritual medium Mbuya Nehanda was erected in Harare last May.

“It is shameful that looted treasures are in museums of former colonial powers.

“It is horrific that human remains in are also in museums & universities

“They should be repatriated,” he said.

He added: “Who are the ‘savages’?

“Former Colonial powers don’t like to dwell on the horrors they committed in the name of Empire: the enslavement, brutalisation and Genocide of entire populations.

“What was done must be acknowledged and proper amends must be made.”

The government of the late former President Robert Mugabe formed a repatriation committee. In 2015, Zimbabwe went on to call for the skulls to be returned from the NHM.

The museum, however, claimed, among the 20 000 remains, there was no evidence of the skulls the Zimbabwean government was looking for.

Last month, President Emmerson Mnangagwa called for the remains of colonialist Cecil John Rhodes to be exhumed and repatriated to Britain in exchange for the skulls of Nehanda and Kaguvi.

Rhodes died in 1902. His self-chosen burial place is at Matobo Hills National Park, south of Bulawayo. Nehanda Radio