We have discussed this topic a couple of times here, the last time was not so long ago. What do modern nations owe each other regarding the return of or restitution for art and artifacts (some of them very ancient and invaluable) removed from their place of origin by way of sale, stealth or superior military power? In the current climate of globalization, international trade and treaties and resurgent nationalistic feelings, the debate can be long and heated. Usually the demands for restoration come from less wealthy nations whose ancient religious and cultural relics often adorn the glittering halls of museums in far away countries, some of them, past conquerors and colonizers. In recent days Egypt has demanded the return of the priceless (and gorgeous, I should add) bust of Queen Nefertiti which has been in German hands for more than a century. It also wants some items housed in the Louvre to return home from France. Ostensibly, as Egypt’s chief archaeologist, Zahi Hawass has claimed, the wish to regain control of these objects of art arises from Egypt's pride in its national history. But as it turns out, it may also have been influenced to a large extent by a recent political skirmish with the host nations.
BERLIN — As thousands lined up to catch a glimpse of Nefertiti at the newly reopened Neues Museum here, another skirmish erupted in the culture wars. Egypt’s chief archaeologist, Zahi Hawass, announced that his country wanted its queen handed back forthwith, unless Germany could prove that the 3,500-year-old bust of Akhenaten’s wife wasn’t spirited illegally out of Egypt nearly a century ago....
Globalization, it turns out, has only intensified, not diminished, cultural differences among nations. The forces of nationalism love to exploit culture because it’s symbolic, economically potent and couches identity politics in a legal context that tends to pit David against Goliath.
Mr. Hawass also recently fired a shot at France, demanding the Louvrereturn five fresco fragments it purchased in 2000 and 2003 from a gallery and at auction. They belonged to a 3,200-year-old tomb near Luxor and had been in storage at the museum. Egypt had made the demand before, but this time suspended the Louvre’s long-term excavation at Saqqara, near Cairo, and said it would stop collaborating on Louvre exhibitions.
France got the message. It promised to send the fragments back tout de suite.
It didn’t go unnoticed in Paris, Berlin or Cairo that Mr. Hawass pressed his case about Nefertiti and suspended the excavations by the Louvre just after his country’s culture minister, Farouk Hosny, bitterly lost a bid to become director general of the United Nations’ cultural agency, Unesco. The post went late last month to a Bulgarian diplomat instead. Mr. Hosny would have been the first Arab to land the job, and Egypt’s president, Hosni Mubarak, had banked a not insignificant amount of his own prestige on the minister’s getting it.
Also, a feud has begun between India and Albania (Macedonia may enter the fray soon) about the rightful resting place for a more recent relic - the remains of Mother Teresa who was born in a town that was once part of Albania but which now belongs to Macedonia. As everyone knows, from the age of eighteen onwards, Mother Teresa lived and worked in India, where she also died.
India has rejected a demand by the Albanian government for the return of the remains of Nobel laureate Mother Teresa, buried in the city of Calcutta.
"Mother Teresa was an Indian citizen and she is resting in her own country, her own land," Foreign Ministry spokesman Vishnu Prakash said.
A spokeswoman for the nun's Missionaries of Charity described the Albanian request as "absurd".
Mother Teresa, an ethnic Albanian, was born in Skopje, now part of Macedonia.
Correspondents say that the row over her resting place could develop into an ugly three-way squabble between India, where she worked most of her life, Albania where her parents came from and Macedonia where she lived the first 18 years of her life.
The row is expected to intensify by August next year - the 100th anniversary of Mother Teresa's birth - by which time many commentators expect her to have been canonised as a saint.
And then there is the report of a refund. It is taking place quietly without much fanfare. It seems that a highly touted "educational" merchandize did not quite do what it had promised eager consumers.
They may have been a great electronic baby sitter, but the unusual refunds appear to be a tacit admission that they did not increase infant intellect.
“We see it as an acknowledgment by the leading baby video company that baby videos are not educational, and we hope other baby media companies will follow suit by offering refunds,” said Susan Linn, director of Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, which has been pushing the issue for years.