Bring us the head of King Badu Bonsu, said Ghana – and the Dutch said yes

Read Time: 4 minutes

After almost 200 years, a colonial wrong is set right as tribal chief’s body part is finally returned to his homeland

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.

When King Badu Bonsu II, hereditary chief of the Ahanta tribe, murdered two Dutch emissaries in 1837, he cut off their heads and displayed them proudly on his throne. The Dutch vowed revenge and sent a punitive expedition with an auxiliary scientific purpose.

A member of the tribe was bribed to betray his chief, the king was duly captured and hanged, and his head removed and sent back to Holland to be studied by a Leiden scientist who was an expert in the long-discredited field of phrenology, the study of human skulls for what they were believed to reveal about personality. The Ahanta, meanwhile, were thrown into despair by the theft of their chief’s head.

“Without burial of the head, the deceased will be hunted in the after-life,” Eric Odoi-Anim, Ghana’s chargé d’affaires in the Netherlands told Associated Press. “He is incomplete. It is also a stigma on his clan, on his kinsmen – and him being a [high-ranking] chief, it is even more serious.”

Yesterday Mr Japin, the Dutch novelist, explained how he had helped reunite the chief’s head with his body. “I was researching my novel about an Ahanta boy brought to Holland in 1837, and in the process I learned about the head of the king, who had been a friend of the boy,” he said.

“I had been looking for the head for more than 10 years because as a novelist you become obsessed with finding out everything possible about your subjects. Finally in 2002 I found it locked away in a dark cupboard where it had been for more than 170 years.

“The staff took it out of the round jar and put it on the laboratory sink for me. It had been turned white by the formaldehyde but it was still life-size and he looked as if he was asleep. I felt, ‘this is so wrong, you should go home’.”

But the university, says Mr Japin, was strongly opposed to the idea. “It felt like their dark secret,” he said. “They still feel today that it should not have gone home. But last November I was invited to a dinner in the presence of the then Ghanaian president, John Kufuor, our Queen Beatrice and other dignitaries in The Hague and I told everyone about the head of the king. After that the Ghanaians began lobbying for its return.”

At this week’s ceremony, the Dutch Foreign Minister Maxime Verhagen said: “We are here because of our mutual desire to lay to rest episodes in history that were unfortunate and shameful.” The descendants of the king are not mollified, however. “I am hurt, angry,” said Joseph Jones Amoah, his great-grandson. “My grandfather has been killed.”

What will happen to the head in Ghana remains unclear. “I was told that when Badu Bonsu died they didn’t want to bury him because the body was incomplete,” said Mr Japin. “So instead they hid the body away.”

If it can now be located, the correct burial ceremony could finally be performed.

Coast of sorrows: The legacy of greed

*”Discovered” by the Portuguese in the 15th century, what is now Ghana was originally known as the Gold Coast because of its natural wealth.

*Successive waves of Europeans fought for access to its precious metals, ivory and slaves. The Dutch, who arrived after the Portuguese, were eventually bought out by the British.

*The Ahanta, based near the coast, were the first tribe to trade with the Portuguese. But as a descendant of King Badu Bonsu lamented yesterday: “Their friendly and generous nature was taken for weakness. They fought back when they realised the Europeans were up to no good. And despite facing down cannons with bows and arrows, they managed to stand their ground.”

115 thoughts on “Bring us the head of King Badu Bonsu, said Ghana – and the Dutch said yes

  1. Wow that was strange. I just wrote an very long comment but after I clicked submit my
    comment didn’t show up. Grrrr… well I’m not writing all that over again. Anyways, just wanted to say great

  2. I am not sure where you are getting your info, but great topic.
    I needs to spend some time learning more or understanding more.
    Thanks for fantastic information I was looking for this information for my mission.

  3. Howdy would you mind stating which blog platform you’re working with?

    I’m looking to start my own blog in the near future but I’m having a hard time deciding between BlogEngine/Wordpress/B2evolution and Drupal.

    The reason I ask is because your design seems different then most blogs and I’m looking for something completely unique.
    P.S My apologies for being off-topic but I had to ask!

  4. Your style is so unique compared to other folks I’ve read stuff from.
    Thanks for posting when you have the opportunity, Guess I’ll just
    book mark this blog.

  5. I’m not sure why but this site is loading very slow for me.
    Is anyone else having this problem or is it a issue on my end?
    I’ll check back later on and see if the problem still exists.

  6. Today, I went to the beachfront with my children.
    I found a sea shell and gave it to my 4 year old daughter
    and said “You can hear the ocean if you put this to your ear.”
    She put the shell to her ear and screamed. There was a
    hermit crab inside and it pinched her ear. She never wants to go
    back! LoL I know this is completely off topic but I
    had to tell someone!

  7. Whats up are using WordPress for your site platform?
    I’m new to the blog world but I’m trying to get started and create my
    own. Do you require any html coding knowledge to make your own blog?

    Any help would be really appreciated!

  8. Wow, fantastic blog layout! How long have you been blogging
    for? you make blogging look easy. The overall look of your website is wonderful, let alone the

  9. It’s truly very complicated in this busy life to listen news on Television, thus I only use
    world wide web for that purpose, and take the latest news.

  10. you’re in point of fact a excellent webmaster.
    The web site loading velocity is incredible. It sort of feels that you are doing any distinctive trick.
    In addition, The contents are masterpiece. you have performed a wonderful process on this subject!

  11. Pretty nice post. I simply stumbled upon your blog and wished to mention that I have truly enjoyed browsing your weblog
    posts. After all I will be subscribing in your feed and I hope you write again very soon!

  12. I’m not that much of a online reader to be honest but your sites
    really nice, keep it up! I’ll go ahead and bookmark your site to come back in the
    future. Cheers

  13. Excellent blog right here! Also your site loads up very fast!
    What host are you the usage of? Can I get your affiliate link on your
    host? I desire my site loaded up as quickly as yours lol

  14. I was wondering if you ever thought of changing the structure of your site?
    Its very well written; I love what youve got to say.

    But maybe you could a little more in the way of content
    so people could connect with it better. Youve got
    an awful lot of text for only having 1 or 2 pictures.
    Maybe you could space it out better?

  15. My spouse and I stumbled over here coming from a
    different page and thought I might as well check things out.
    I like what I see so now i’m following you. Look forward to looking at your web page repeatedly.

  16. Right here is the right website for everyone who really wants to find out about this
    topic. You understand so much its almost hard to argue with you (not that I really would want to…HaHa).
    You certainly put a new spin on a subject which has been discussed for many years.
    Excellent stuff, just great!

  17. I need to to thank you for this good read!! I definitely loved every bit of it. I have you saved as a favorite to check out new things you post…

  18. Undeniably believe that which you stated. Your favorite justification appeared to be at
    the internet the easiest thing to take into account
    of. I say to you, I definitely get irked even as other people
    consider worries that they just do not understand about.
    You controlled to hit the nail upon the top and defined out
    the whole thing with no need side-effects , folks could take a signal.
    Will probably be again to get more. Thanks

  19. Have you ever considered publishing an e-book or guest authoring on other sites?
    I have a blog based upon on the same subjects you discuss and would love to have you share some stories/information. I know my visitors would appreciate your work.
    If you’re even remotely interested, feel free to shoot me an e mail.

  20. I’m not sure exactly why but this website is loading extremely slow for me.
    Is anyone else having this issue or is it a issue on my
    end? I’ll check back later and see if the problem still exists.

  21. That is very fascinating, You are a very skilled blogger.
    I’ve joined your rss feed and look forward to in search of
    extra of your excellent post. Additionally, I have shared
    your web site in my social networks

  22. Hey there I am so delighted I found your weblog, I really found you by mistake, while I was researching
    on Google for something else, Nonetheless I am
    here now and would just like to say kudos for
    a tremendous post and a all round interesting blog (I also love the theme/design), I don’t have time to read it
    all at the moment but I have bookmarked it and also added in your RSS feeds, so when I have
    time I will be back to read more, Please do keep up the
    excellent jo.

  23. I enjoy what you guys are usually up too. This sort of clever work and exposure!
    Keep up the superb works guys I’ve included you guys to my personal blogroll.

  24. Superb website you have here but I was curious about if you knew of any forums that cover the same topics talked
    about in this article? I’d really love to
    be a part of online community where I can get advice from other knowledgeable people that share
    the same interest. If you have any recommendations, please let me
    know. Bless you!

  25. Hi, i think that i noticed you visited my website thus i
    got here to go back the choose?.I am attempting to to find issues to enhance my site!I guess its ok to make use of a few
    of your ideas!!

  26. Hey there! Would you mind if I share your blog with my myspace group?
    There’s a lot of folks that I think would really enjoy your content.
    Please let me know. Many thanks

  27. I’m really loving the theme/design of your blog. Do you ever run into any internet browser compatibility issues?
    A couple of my blog visitors have complained about my site not working correctly in Explorer but looks great in Chrome.
    Do you have any tips to help fix this problem?

  28. hello there and thank you for your info – I have definitely picked up something new from right here.
    I did however expertise a few technical points using this site, since I experienced to reload the web site lots of
    times previous to I could get it to load properly. I had been wondering if your web hosting is OK?

    Not that I am complaining, but sluggish loading instances times will
    very frequently affect your placement in google and can damage your quality score if advertising and marketing with Adwords.
    Anyway I’m adding this RSS to my e-mail and could look out for a lot more of your respective exciting content.
    Ensure that you update this again very soon.

  29. Magnificent site. Lots of useful info here. I’m sending it to some friends ans additionally sharing in delicious.
    And certainly, thank you on your sweat!

  30. whoah this weblog is great i really like reading your posts.

    Stay up the good work! You understand, lots of people are hunting round
    for this information, you can aid them greatly.

  31. Having read this I believed it was very enlightening. I appreciate you spending some time and energy to put this article together. I once again find myself spending way too much time both reading and leaving comments. But so what, it was still worthwhile!

  32. I do not know whether it’s just me or if perhaps everybody else experiencing problems
    with your website. It looks like some of the written text within your content
    are running off the screen. Can someone else please provide feedback and
    let me know if this is happening to them too? This could be a issue with my browser because I’ve had
    this happen before. Appreciate it

  33. Greetings! This is my first visit to your blog!
    We are a team of volunteers and starting a new project in a community in the same niche.
    Your blog provided us valuable information to work on. You have done a outstanding job!

  34. I’m not sure exactly why but this weblog is loading extremely slow for me.
    Is anyone else having this issue or is it a problem on my
    end? I’ll check back later on and see if the problem still exists.

  35. I think this is among the most important info for me. And i’m glad reading your article.

    But want to remark on few general things, The site
    style is great, the articles is really great : D.
    Good job, cheers

  36. We are a group of volunteers and starting a new scheme in our
    community. Your site offered us with valuable info to work on. You have done an impressive
    job and our whole community will be thankful to you.

  37. You have made some good points there. I checked on the web for more
    info about the issue and found most people will go along with your views on this web site.

  38. Excellent blog here! Also your website loads up fast!
    What host are you using? Can I get your affiliate
    link to your host? I wish my site loaded up as fast as yours lol

  39. That is very interesting, You are an overly skilled blogger.
    I’ve joined your feed and look ahead to in search of more of your wonderful post.
    Also, I’ve shared your website in my social networks

  40. I’m now not positive where you are getting your info, but great topic.
    I needs to spend a while learning much more or working out more.
    Thanks for wonderful information I was in search of this information for my mission.

  41. Pretty component to content. I just stumbled upon your website
    and in accession capital to claim that I acquire in fact loved account your blog posts.
    Anyway I will be subscribing to your feeds or even I achievement you access constantly rapidly.

  42. Its like you read my mind! You appear to know a
    lot about this, like you wrote the book in it or
    something. I think that you can do with a few pics to drive the message home a little bit, but other than that,
    this is great blog. A fantastic read. I’ll definitely be back.

  43. I am curious to find out what blog platform you’re
    using? I’m experiencing some small security
    issues with my latest site and I’d like to find something more
    safe. Do you have any recommendations?

  44. I think this is among the most vital info for me.
    And i am glad reading your article. But wanna remark on some general things, The site
    style is great, the articles is really excellent : D.
    Good job, cheers

  45. I truly love your blog.. Pleasant colors & theme.
    Did you develop this amazing site yourself? Please reply back as I’m wanting to create my very own website and want
    to learn where you got this from or just what the theme is named.


  46. Wow that was odd. I just wrote an extremely long comment but after I clicked submit my comment
    didn’t show up. Grrrr… well I’m not writing all that over
    again. Regardless, just wanted to say wonderful blog!

  47. I’m gone to tell my little brother, that he should also visit this webpage on regular basis to get updated
    from most recent gossip.

  48. Heya terrific website! Does running a blog such as this require a great deal of work?

    I have very little knowledge of coding but I
    had been hoping to start my own blog soon. Anyways, should
    you have any ideas or tips for new blog owners please share.

    I know this is off topic however I just had to ask. Thanks
    a lot!

  49. It’s the best time to make some plans for the longer term and it’s time to be happy.
    I have learn this submit and if I may just I wish to counsel you some attention-grabbing issues
    or suggestions. Maybe you can write subsequent articles relating to this article.
    I desire to read more things approximately it!

  50. Valuable information. Fortunate me I discovered your web site unintentionally, and I’m shocked why this coincidence didn’t took place in advance!
    I bookmarked it.

  51. I do consider all the concepts you’ve presented in your post.
    They are really convincing and can definitely work.
    Nonetheless, the posts are very short for starters. May you please extend them a
    little from subsequent time? Thanks for the post.

  52. I know this if off topic but I’m looking into starting my own blog and was wondering what all is required
    to get setup? I’m assuming having a blog like yours would cost a pretty penny?
    I’m not very web smart so I’m not 100% certain. Any suggestions or
    advice would be greatly appreciated. Cheers

  53. Its like you read my mind! You seem to grasp a lot about this, such as you wrote the book in it
    or something. I feel that you just can do with a few % to drive the
    message house a little bit, but other than that, this is wonderful blog.
    A great read. I’ll certainly be back.

  54. I’m not that much of a online reader to be honest but your sites really nice, keep it up!

    I’ll go ahead and bookmark your website to come back in the future.

  55. We absolutely love your blog and find a lot of your post’s to be just what
    I’m looking for. Would you offer guest writers to write content for you?
    I wouldn’t mind writing a post or elaborating on many of the subjects you write related
    to here. Again, awesome web log!

  56. Hi there! I could have sworn I’ve been to this blog before but after reading through some
    of the post I realized it’s new to me. Anyways, I’m definitely delighted
    I found it and I’ll be book-marking and checking back often!

  57. Hey there this is kinda of off topic but I was wanting to know if blogs
    use WYSIWYG editors or if you have to manually code
    with HTML. I’m starting a blog soon but have no coding know-how so I
    wanted to get advice from someone with experience. Any help would be greatly

  58. Excellent goods from you, man. I’ve take into accout your stuff previous to and you’re simply
    extremely excellent. I really like what you’ve bought right here,
    really like what you’re saying and the best way through which you assert it.
    You’re making it entertaining and you continue to take
    care of to stay it wise. I cant wait to read far more from you.
    This is really a great site.

  59. My relatives every time say that I am wasting my time here at net, except I
    know I am getting know-how everyday by reading thes fastidious

  60. It’s a pity you don’t have a donate button! I’d without
    a doubt donate to this brilliant blog! I suppose for now i’ll settle for book-marking
    and adding your RSS feed to my Google account. I look forward to fresh updates and will share
    this site with my Facebook group. Chat soon!

  61. At this time it seems like Expression Engine is the best blogging platform available right now.
    (from what I’ve read) Is that what you’re using on your blog?

  62. I don’t know if it’s just me or if perhaps everybody else
    experiencing problems with your website. It appears as though some of the text within your posts are running off the screen. Can somebody else
    please comment and let me know if this is happening to
    them too? This may be a problem with my browser because I’ve
    had this happen previously. Appreciate it

  63. Hello there! Do you use Twitter? I’d like to follow you if
    that would be ok. I’m absolutely enjoying your blog and look
    forward to new updates.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *