Could Egypt recover the statue of Sekhemka?

Nevine El-Aref , Saturday 22 Aug 2015

Ministry of Antiquities launches fund raising campaign to buy 4500-year-old statue sold last year in London, stops archeological cooperation with Northampton Museum for selling it

Sekhemka statue
The 4500-year-old ancient Egyptian statue of Sekhemka (Photo: antiquities ministry)

Egypt's antiquities minister Mamdouh Eldamaty launched on Saturday a fund raising campaign to re-buy the 4500-year-old ancient Egyptian statue of Sekhemka, which was sold by a UK museum.

"I am calling all Egyptians around the world to help Egypt to preserve its ancient Egyptian heritage and to collect the required fund to buy the Sekhemka statue," Eldamaty told reporters at the Ministry of Antiquities premises in Zamalek.

He also announced that the ministry has stopped all archeological cooperation and relations with the Northampton Museum that sold the statue last year to make up for its lack of funds.

The statue dates to the 5th dynasty and depicts Sekhemka who was a scribe and court official, with his wife Sitmerit.

The controversy over the Sekhemka statue began in July 2014 when Northampton Museum put the statue on sale in an attempt to raise the funds of the museum's budget.

The statue of Sekhemka was sold to an anonymous buyer at Christie's in London for £15,76 million during an auction in July 2014 but a temporary export ban was later imposed.

The sale of the statue by Northampton Council was opposed by the Arts Council, the Museums Association, the Art Fund, and the International Council of Museums, as well as locals in Northampton.

This export ban was meant to expire on 29 July and British and Egyptian campaigners have asked the prime minister to intervene "urgently".

The UK department for culture took the unprecedented step of extending a deadline to 29 August over the export of the Egyptian sculpture of Sekhemka. This is the first time that such a step has been has been taken since the art export regulations were introduced in 1952.

The decision was made after it was determined that the sale of the 4,000-year-old Egyptian statue to a private collector, by the Northampton Museum and Art Gallery and Abington Park Museum, had breached Arts Council England's (ACE) accredited standards for how museums manage their collections.

ACE subsequently removed Northampton Museum from their accreditation scheme with immediate effect. It will now be excluded from future participation until August 2019 and are no longer eligible for Arts Council grants.

On Saturday, Eldamaty announced that the Department of Culture declared a second deferral period until March 2016 in an attempt to give an opportunity to British businessmen to collect the money to match the price of the statue.

Eldamaty called on Egyptian businessmen to collect the required money in order to return it back to Egypt.

"If British businessmen find the matching money, the statue is to be kept in another museum in Britain," he said.

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