Repatriation of human remains belonging to First Chimurenga war heroes from a British museum has hit a snag after archival research failed to positively identify the bones.
Government had asked the National History Museum in London to assist with positive identification of remains thought to belong to First Chimurenga heroes ahead of repatriation.
However, archival documentation from both the National Museums and Monuments of Zimbabwe and the NHM in London shows that while the collection originated from Zimbabwe, the remains of individuals listed by Zimbabwean authorities were not part of that collection. NMMZ director Dr Godfrey Mahachi said authorities could still opt for DNA identification tests.
He said authorities would expand their search to other British institutions where artefacts of that nature were shipped during the colonial years.
He said: “Over the last few months, British historians were examining historical records at their offices and various other institutions in Britain and South Africa in order to ascertain the skulls’ positive identification and origination. We have been in discussion with the British through the National History Museum, which is holding some human remains form Zimbabwe and we have agreed that they do the necessary archival research to establish how they received them.
“They conducted that research and we also gave them our research around individuals cited in our Government letter of request on who we are looking for to assist in finding the artefacts.
“And they made their determination from archival research that the individuals we requested were not part of their collection.
“But the determination is not final because we can choose to go the scientific way. The archival research has confirmed that the remains originated from Zimbabwe, and we believe that Government should repatriate the remains because they belong to us.
“It is the responsibility of Government, and our responsibility also, to bring back the remains of our ancestors for proper burial.
“What it means is that given that setback we will have to broaden our search. We know there are many other institutions that hold such collections in the UK.
“What we have been looking for might not be in the NHM what it means the search must now spread to other institutions until we identify what we want to repatriate.”
During the First Chimurenga, British invasion forces publicly beheaded resistance movement leaders.
The decapitated appendages were used as trophies by the victors to collect hefty rewards from colonial authorities.
Chief Mashayamombe was one of the leading figures during the First Chimurenga who had caused a lot of problems for the whites in the Mhondoro, Norton and Chegutu areas and there was a ransom on his head.
Chief Makoni Chingaira was another one of the leaders in the Rusape area who met his death at the hands of invading forces. Records indicate he was beheaded and his head taken away.
In 2011, Namibia’s government repatriated dozens of human skulls and skeletons from former coloniser, Germany.