Art Market

Ethiopian officials have called for a sacred tablet housed in Westminster Abbey to be returned.

Anna Louie Sussman
Jul 2, 2018 3:15PM, via The Art Newspaper

The Ethiopian government has called for the restitution of a sacred tablet from Westminster Abbey, where it has been for roughly 150 years. The tablet “symbolically represents the Ark of the Covenant and the Ten Commandments,” according to The Art Newspaper, and is known as a “tabot.” It was taken from Ethiopia by Captain George Arbuthnot of the Royal Artillery during a battle at Maqdala in 1868, and Arbuthnot then donated the tabot to the famous London abbey. The Anglican Church has its own procedures for deaccessioning, but according to The Art Newspaper, Westminster Abbey falls under the jurisdiction of the U.K.’s monarchy, meaning it may lie with the Queen to bless the restitution. There have been growing calls for restitution of looted objects from a variety of countries, which are sometimes greeted with concern about the capacity of low-resource countries to conserve the objects in question.

Anna Louie Sussman