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General News of Saturday, 25 January 2020


Badu Bonsu II; the King whose head was preserved in a jar in a laboratory

Badu Bonsu II Badu Bonsu II

The leader of the Ahanta tribe in the Western Region and a Ghanaian king Badu Bonsu II was executed in 1838 by the Dutch.

The Kundum festival is celebrated by the people of Ahanta and Nzema in the Western Region.

King Badu Bonsu II

King Badu Bonsu II, who was leader of the Ahanta tribe, is believed to have been decapitated in retaliation for the killing of two Dutch emissaries in 1838.

According to the Dutch government, Badu Bonsu II was handed over by his own “nation” to Dutch colonists, who were then in control of a part of the former Gold Coast that included Ahanta tribal lands.

The Discovery

The head was taken by Maj. Gen. Jan Verveer in 1838 in retaliation for King Badu Bonsu II ‘s killing of two Dutch emissaries, whose heads were displayed as trophies on Bonsu’s throne, said Arthur Japin, a Dutch author who discovered the king’s head when he was working on a historical novel.

Preserved in a jar of formaldehyde, the head of King Badu Bonsu II was discovered gathering dust in a laboratory in the Leiden University Medical Centre by Arthur Japin, a best-selling Dutch author. It had been there since its arrival in the late 1830s from what was then called the Dutch Gold Coast and is today Ghana.

Mr Japin, the Dutch novelist, explained how he had helped reunite Badu Bonsu II head with his body. “I was researching my novel about an Ahanta boy brought to Holland in 1838, 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'”.

The Return

After hearing of the head’s location in 2008, Ghana filed a request for its return, saying, “Without burial of the head, the deceased will be hunted in the afterlife.”

In March 2009, government officials announced that it would be returned to its homeland for proper burial.

The Dutch and Ghanaian governments and a member of Badu Bonsu’s Ahanta tribe

signed a pact in The Hague for the handover of the head, which remained out of sight in a room elsewhere in the foreign ministry building for the ceremony.

Ahanta tribe leaders held an emotional ritual, pouring alcohol on the floor of the conference room while invoking the chief’s spirit in the presence of Ghanaian nationals dressed in the country’s red and black mourning colours.

Ghana claimed the head of Badu Bonsu II, which had been preserved in formaldehyde in a bottle among the anatomy collection of the university in the western Dutch town of Leiden on July 23, 2009.

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