Egypt urged to expedite efforts to keep Sekhemka statue on display

Marwan Sultan in London , Saturday 11 Apr 2015

Campaigners trying to block the Sekhemka statue from leaving the UK say they would prefer the statue return to Egypt rather than it being kept by a private owner


An action group campaigning to keep the Egyptian Sekhemka statue in the United Kingdom has appealed to Egypt to support its efforts to impose a permanent export ban on the artefact. 

Last week, the UK Ministry of Culture placed a temporary export ban on the statue that was bought by an overseas buyer for £15.76 million in July 2014.

The buyer, believed to be of Middle Eastern origin, has applied for a licence to move the ancient statue from the UK.

A UK minister of state for culture decided to defer the export licence application until 29 July, which could be extended to 26 March 2016.

The Save Sekhemka Action Group (SSAG) doubts the legality of how the statue was brought to the UK. It has suggested that Egyptian authorities actively work on tracing the way the statue originally left Egypt.

It is said that the Second Marquess of Northampton purchased and exported the statue from Egypt in 1850, and then gifted it to the Northampton Museum.

However, SSAG suggested there is no documentation of the purchase and export of the statue to the UK.

"We hope the Egyptian authorities expedite its efforts to find out if the purchase and export of the statue from Egypt was in accordance with then in force Egyptian laws on antique artefacts,” Ruth Thomas, deputy head of SSAG told Ahram Online.

"While the group strongly believes the 4000 year old statute belongs to Northampton Museum, we support the idea of sending it back to Egypt, instead of it being owned by someone who takes it from the UK and keeps it out of display," Thomas said.

According to UK laws, if the purchase and export of Sekhemka can be proved to be illegal, Egyptian authorities can seek to recover it.

The UK Ministry of Culture told Ahram Online last week that "If a UK buyer makes a matching offer to the current owner, and the owner rejects the offer, then the UK Secretary of State could decide to refuse to grant an export licence."

SSAG says this is unlikely and rules out taking part in a campaign to raise funds to match the offer as it “doesn’t believe the sale of the statue was legal in first place.”

SSAG will be meeting in next few days to consider its next steps, Thomas said.

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