The Netherlands returns King’s Head to Ghana.

The head of king Badu Bonsu II is officially back in Ghana. The Dutch minister of Foreign Afffairs, Maxime Verhagen, Ghanaian representative in The Netherlands Odoi-Anim and Ghanaian traditional leader Etsin Kofi II signed on 23 July in The Hague a declaration that eventually makes the head’s handover a fact. The great-great-grandson of Badu Bonsu II was also present.

Aqua Fortis

The head was at the ministry of Foreign Affairs but was only public for guests from Ghana. Badu Bonsu II killed in 1838 two Dutch emissaries at the Gold Coast and was consequently hanged en decapitated. The head was kept and brought to the Netherlands. There it was put into aqua fortis to be preserved. According to Radio Voice of Africa this was for several people in Ghana a sensitive issue.

When the Ghanaian president Kufuor visited the Netherlands last year the issue was brought to the attention. ‘Everywhere in the world people give much importance to the way there forefathers are buried. In a way that cherishes their soul. We have to be able to say goodbye to those we honored when alive. We have to know that our forefathers can rest in peace’ said minister Verhagen at the ceremony.

The minister went on, "King Badu Bonsu II lived when the Dutch were controlling the trade posts of the Cold Coast. After his dead he became a symbol of these turbulent times. Our common past includes also the disgraceful slave trade, in which our traders were involved and which they sustained. We do not ignore this shared heritage.”

In Ghana there was a lot of attention for this event. According to Radio Voice of Africa the handover ceremnoy had ben broadcasted live.


  1. I don't fully understand why the head was preserved. As some kind of a trophy? Was this a common practice that I'm just simply not aware of, or is there more than meets the eye? And how did they squeeze his head into the mouth of that bottle?

  2. I didn't find much about the reason why this head was taken. Arthur Japin, a Dutch author who discovered the king's head when he was working on a historical novel, said Bonsu was decapitated in retaliation for his killing of two Dutch emissaries, whose heads were displayed as trophies on Bonsu's throne.
    We can imagine that the Dutch tried to pass a message to the other local chiefs.
    However, taking the head to the Netherlands and puting it in a jar of formaldehyde is strange but fits scietific paractice of these period.
    This is the same period when taxidermy was used on dead black bodies to use them in exotic exhibition (Dutch writer Frank Westerman wrote the interesting book 'El Negro and I' about this).
    How they got it in the jar I have no idea. there is an intersting article with more details on following link:

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  4. Most African scholars believe the head was preserved for a Scientist for cranial testing. This was common during the 19th century by European scientist using pseudoscience to rational white superiority and slavery.

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