Oxford Union debate
Oxford Union Votes for Return of Colonial Era Lifted Cultural Artifacts
Oxford Union debate - the motion for the return of colonial artifacts was carried by an overhwelming majority!
I was privileged to be the introductory speaker on behalf of IPSACI at the debate at the Oxford Union and to present the case for the repatriation of colonial-era looted artefacts.
The other speakers were -
Dr James Cuno, President and CEO of the J. Paul Getty Trust
Dr Sabine Haag, General Director of the Kunsthistorische Museum of Ethnology and Curtor of the Chamber of Art and the Treasury.
Dr Zahi Hawaas - World renowned archaeologist, former Minister of Antiquities and Director of Excavations at Giza and The Valley of Kings in Egypt.
Wim Pijbes - former Director fo the Rijksmuseum, Board Member of the Rembrandt Society, Director of Voorlinden Museum.
We won the debate by 160 -106 votes.
The Oxford Union, under the Presidency of Mr Noah Oliver Lachs proved to be wonderful hosts and the audience were lively, participated in the discussion, and finally voted in favour of restitution!
Next week Stephen Hawking will be the speaker.
Thanks also to my fellow Parthenon Sculptures committee campaigner Alan Smith who helped make it happen! Also to the corporate sponsor of the debate who, it was a pleasure to note at the venue, was a Greek entity, the METKA energy company owned by the Mytilineos family who were present.
- July 25, 2016
Oxford Union invites the representative of the International Parthenon Sculptures Action Committee to speak at the debate on the return of colonial era cultural items
The president of the Oxford Union, the premier debating society in the world which has hosted speakers such as Albert Einstein, Mother Teresa, US presidents, leading scientists, politicians, and entertainers at its debates has recently invited IPSACI chairman Alexis Mantheakis to speak at the debate in November in favour of the return of removed colonial-era artifacts.
This is a very significant forum which has the world's and media attention, and an important opportunity for the argument for Greek case for the restitution of the Parthenon Scultpures looted by Lord Elgin two hundred years ago in Athens to be heard by an influential audience.
We will be there!
Eddie O'Hara MP and longtime Parthenon Campaigner passes away
- July 25, 2016
A few days before the London Bi-Centenary Colloquy the Chairman of the British Committee left us
We were saddened to hear that Eddie O'Hara, MP, chairperson of the British Committee for the Reunification of the Parthenon Marbles (BCRPM) had passed away on May 29th 2016, just days before the London Colloquy was to take place.
Eddie was a dedicated campaigner, in and out of the Commons, and was well liked and deeply respected by all of us from the other organisations who had had the honour and pleasure of working with, or hearing him, over the years. In particular we at IPSACI were fortunate to have participated at Colloquys co-organised by the BCRPM, the Australian Committee of veteran campaigner, Emmanuel "Menios" Comino, and the American Committees, in Athens and at the very successful Sydney Colloquy of November of 2013.
link to the BCRPM article-
Eddie hosted our chairman, in London in 2009, introducing him to the board of the BCRPM at a specially organised meeting for our two committees to exchange views and campaign goals. Eddie, with BCRPM founder Helen Cubbitt, took our chairman to the House of Commons for tea and dinner and to discuss the IPSACI goals.
Eddie, may you rest in peace, you will always be remembered for your dedication and as a friend of Greece and Greek culture.
The British Museum - a repository of looted colonial booty
Empires by definition use their power to gain possessions, whether these are other countries, that become colonies, or the natural resources and priceless cultural artifacts created and owned by those nations, tribes or individuals under occupation. While empires have often contributed to the spread of civilisation with the propagation of beneficial systems of civic organisation, of education, science, and an improvement in the standard of living in their colonies,and have often left legacies that have survived the end of each empire, there is also a dark side associated with empires and their history. Empires rule and require others to be ruled, to give up their national treasures, their resources and their very freedom. The British Empire, which gave much to the world in terms of government and organisation, was no exception when it came to its attitude regarding the property of others or their right to rule themselves.
At the beginning of the 1800's, after a long series of wars and annexations of foreign territories Britain ruled an Empire on which "the sun never set". One quarter of the world's population laboured and lived under the Union Jack and woe-betide anyone who in his own country wanted to enter a hotel, be treated at a European hospital or wished to buy land in areas such as Kenya Colony's White Highlands reserved for "white" colonials. The Empire's hold on foreign countries, their wealth, their resources and their peoples did not come cheap for those civilisations or nations "upon whom fell Albion's covetous eye". Thousands of Burmese, Kenyans, Malayans, Aborigines, American Indians (in earlier centuries) and later, American colonists, Indians, Afghans, Sudanese , Cypriots, Irish and Chinese were arrested, imprisoned, shot or hanged when they demanded and acted to get control of the countries they were born and lived in.
National treasures were looted by troops or diplomats of the Empire from the palaces and streets of China, Hydrabad and Jaipur, from Egypt, from Baghdad, Damascus, Assyria, Timbuktu, Zanzibar, Cyprus and, perhaps most notable of all, were those from the sacred temple of the Parthenon, whose eastern pediment was mutilated over a series of years by a British peer, Lord Elgin - to decorate his house in Scotland. This was the beginning of the Parthenon Scultpures saga, which led to Greece and friends and supporters campaigning for the reunification of the Sculptures and pediments of the Parthenon. People around the world and in Britain from all walks of life have joined the campaign.
If Elgin had been posted elsewhere....
IPSACI - the international Parthenon Sculptures activist group - fighting with you to give a nation back the symbol of its identity and history
Help us reunite the Parthenon Sculptures in Athens
IPSACI is an international non-profit organisation established and registered in Auckland, New Zealand, demanding the return of the Parthenon Sculptures from the British Museum to Greece, to be housed in the New Acropolis Museum in Athens. We also have offices in Athens where our chairman and many of our board members live.
Support the reunification of this unique UNESCO world heritage monument, the most hauntingly beautiful building in the world
Let the world protest and shout that the Parthenon Sculptures looted from an occupied and enslaved Greek nation two centuries ago by Lord Elgin, a British diplomat, belong to Greece - that it is time for the House of Lords and the Commons to pass a law , without further delay, for their return if a shred of decency is to be left behind in this whole shameful affair. The Greeks have engaged in endless rounds of civilised dialogue, sent cultural and citizen delegations and government ministers to Britain, in repeated attempts to find a chink of humanity and empathy in the stony hearts of the British Museum's administrators and in the corridors of government of Whitehall, but in vain. The time for dialogue has run out, as it inevitably also did for Britain's other possessions, the Crown Colonies - and we demand the Sculptures be returned to Athens. Our Hellenic culture can no longer be held hostage by the Trustees of the British Museum. Britain has violated Greece's most sacred symbol, the Parthenon.
Who we are
IPSACI is the world’s largest international action group working for the unconditional return of the looted Parthenon Sculptures from the British Museum to Greece. Via our associated Greek and overseas internet campaign groups we represent over 200,000 supporters worldwide. We believe that action, primarily, not words, will help restore the unity of the Parthenon, a unique UNESCO heritage monument.
The International Colloquys
The modern campaign was begun in an organised manner in 1981 by Emanuel Comino of the Australian Organising Committee who, together with the then Greek culture minister, the well-known film actress Melina Mercouri, set the foundations on which almost all the campaign groups today are based and helped create the momentum that has kept the issue going. Emanuel helped establish the British Committee, the BCRPM, managed to get parliaments around thee world to pass resolutions for the restitution of the Sculptures, and to this day is a dynamic force behind the colloquys that take place every year in international venues. We at IPSACI are proud to have shared fora with him and to coordinate aspects of our campaign, where practical, with the committees Emanuel is involved with.
An important part of the campaign has been the gathering of the various national Parthenon committees from around the world in a series of colloquys started in Athens in 2012 at the New Acropolis Musum. Organised by the Australian, British and US committees it was followed by a very successful colloquy in Australia held at Sydney University in 2013, followed by a colloquy again in Athens in July of 2015, and the most recent one, in London in 2016. which was overshadowed by the sad passing of Eddie O'Hara, the chairman of the British Committee, a former MP and decades long supporter of the right of Greece to regain its looted Parthenon Sculptures. IPSACI was present at all the colloquys, except the London one where the central premise of non-confrontation with the British government was in divergence with our declaration and policy. At the other meetings our chairman Alexis Mantheakis was a speaker. Our co- founder and governing board member Alan Smith from Auckland spoke at Sydney University to a warm reception in 2013. While these conferences were occasions to exchange views and to decide on further steps to be taken, the British governement and the British Museum were unmoved by the arguments and so we at IPSACI continue with our activist actions and media campaign believing that only with pressure will the British government be forced into action.
The ice will not crack without a hammer, and we, with your help, will be that hammer.
Our Board of Directors
Our board members live in Greece, Australia and New Zealand -
They are not statues ... the silent protest video
Elgin, the Nose Thief, and Imperial Colonial Attitudes that led to the Desecration of the Parthenon
Elgin with his chaplain and crew removed dozens of statues and other exquisite carvings from the eastern pediment of the monument which symbolises Greek history, its civilization and is the very symbol of the Greek nation. It is a unique UNESCO designated cultural monument and the Parthenon is in fact the symbol of the United Nations' cultural agency logo.
One should note that the Parthenon had not been looted by any invader for 2,300 years and that it was put in danger, and desecrated, by Lord Elgin. At approximately the same time an English contemporary writer recounted how a senior official of the British Consulate in Constantinople had a hobby of breaking off the noses of Greek statues in Athens whenever he visited Greece, and took great pride in showing off to his guests the collection of vandalised noses he had in his office at the British Consulate by the Bosporus. But Elgin and the nose-vandal were in the minority among the many British PhilHellenes who supported Greece. An English contemporary of Lord Elgin wrote, in Latin, on the plastered base of a missing looted statue from the Acropolis, the following words:
QUOD NON FECERUNT GOTI, FECERUNT SCOTI
“That which the Goths (and Vandals) did not do, was done by the Scots”
British troops, archaeologists and diplomats cast a worldwide net to bring the treasures of formerly superior civilizations to display in their capital, in a museum built for this very purpose - to show the spoils of war and to attract visitors to view the artifacts of great civilizations whose creators had not of course agreed to their history and their most valuable cultural and religious (as in the case of the Parthenon, the temple of Athena) artifacts being taken away to be put on display by England.
Britain had power, money and a fearsome military machine, but it lacked domestic cultural objects of value. The rough-hewn stone blocks of Stonehenge and broken pots and pans of the Roman legions who had bivouacked in Londinium were not worthy of an Empire which otherwise had the trappings of grandeur and an attitude rooted in the belief of absolute racial superiority and that the actions of colonising the world were those of Manifest Destiny. It was an empire that declared, as recently as 1940, that it would last "for a Thousand Years".
It fell apart, in just 25, after this declaration by Winston Churchill, its colonies rebelled and one by one Britain's foreign subjects took control of their own lives and their national destinies. Empire thus became Commonwealth.
Chinese were allowed once more into the parks of Shanghai after removing the signs which said "No Dogs or Chinese". Kenyans were allowed to buy farms in Nakuru and Nairobi where their forefathers had lived for hundreds of years. Oxford and Cambridge-educated Africans, after dining in the halls of Balliol and Magdalene, were finally allowed to order coffee and tea in hotel lounges and to sit in the upper circle seats at the cinema in their own countries. Britain dismantled laws which "forbade" the return of countries to their nationals control.
India was given back, as were Cyprus, Ghana, Burma, Tanganyika, Zanzibar, Malaya, Kuwait, Iraq, Canada Australia, South Africa, Nigeria, and a hundred other countries. A century earlier Britain had been forced by English men of conscience to stop the lucrative trade in African slaves and the barter in opium, for which Britain waged two wars with China.
One by one, colonial "possessions" were returned and Britain withdrew, to enter the newly formed European Union, but it still hung on to isolated vestiges of its grand past with its antiquated monetary system and theatrical white wigs worn by British lawyers and judges. With its entry into the EU the final curtain of Britain's Empire was lowered.
Elizabeth Regina I had created the empire, Elizabeth Regina II was the monarch who, perhaps tragically, saw the sun set on one after the other of her "own" colonies, protectorates, mandates, trust territories, and dominions. Queen Elizabeth II will go down in history as the monarch who was forced to give back a quarter of the world their freedom, after hundreds of thousands of her subjects had paid a blood price first to bring Britain to the negotiating table. Great Britain entered the EU as the "United Kingdom" after a name dispute with Charles de Gaulle, who violently objected to England using the word Britain (Bretagne). The UK finally became a modern European democracy, however with an unelected upper House – the House of Lords - and a hereditary head of state, the monarch. It was now an equal partner in the EU that it entered as a polyglot and multicultural nation with a past. (It has now with Brexit voted to leave the EU and will once again chart its own course).
As a leading example of a democratic country it is ironic that the British people have a democratic right only to choose the representatives of the most junior of the three institutions that rule them - The House of Commons!
Like an aged spinster who zealously guards mementos of her youth, photographs of bygone, happier days, and objects that remind her of a grander past, so in Britain, in London's Russell Square, another aging spinster, the British Museum, jealously clings to acquisitions of past centuries, the well guarded keepsakes of a glorious, but dead, past. Successive British governments have accommodated, with varying degrees of support or inaction, the trustees of the museum, with the tolerance that one has for an eccentric relative whose memories are rooted in another age.
There is little doubt that the position of the Museum in hanging on to the Parthenon Marbles has been surpassed by history and by the democratic values of today. It must surely be a historic embarrassment, overt for some Britons, covert for others. The British Museum today is somewhat of a sad institution, demanding that others comply with its Victorian-era mentality rooted in the early 19th century when Royal Navy gunboats would threaten foreigners who did not step aside, and era when slaves were bought, transported and sold under the protection of the Crown, its agents and the Royal Navy. That era is gone. Britain and the world have changed. Colonial booty is no longer something to be proud of, or to be displayed as trophies.
We at IPSACI, along with organisations and individuals around the world, insist that the Parthenon Sculptures be returned to Athens, to the city where they were located for more than twenty centuries, until Elgin took them home, without ever producing any documents that he had acquired the statues legally (since there were none). In the debate in 1816, in Parliament, there was very vocal objection to their purchase by the British government , and only an Italian translation of a (non-existent) firman, was referred to, giving Elgin permission to draw the Parthenon and to pick up broken stones from the ground around the temple. The sculptures bought from Elgin amid this controversy were then placed in the British Museum for display and remain there until today. A reminder of when force of arms and occupation was a source of pride, as was the display of artefacts taken from enslaved countries, as was Greece under the Turks when Elgin desecrated the Parthenon.
Guardian article regarding the current Greek government position
- July 27, 2016
The Greek Culture Minister speaks to the Guardian as did IPSACI regarding the Sculpture issue and steps to be taken