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(Photo from Wikimedia Commons via the Metropolitan Museum of Art)

Lid of the coffin of Nedjemankh, priest of Heyrshef

Stolen Coffin from 1st Century BC to be Returned to Egypt

The pilfered artifact was on display at a prominent New York museum since 2017.

Just two years after purchasing it, the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art is returning an artifact. But this time, it is being returned to its rightful owners. It was announced on Wednesday that a 2,100-year-old coffin of a priest called Nedjemankh will be returned to Egypt, according to the BBC. It is some good news for the country in a time of political unrest.


The gilded coffin was apparently stolen in 2011 where it entered what authorities believe is a multinational trafficking circuit containing potentially hundreds of similarly stolen relics. As NBC reports, this particular coffin was first smuggled out of the Minya region of Egypt to Germany via the United Arab Emirates, it was restored in Germany and then sent to Paris where it was purchased by the museum for a cool $4 million. The museum director, Daniel Weiss, has apologized to Egypt and stated it was unaware of its participation in the illegal trading. The investigators state that the museum was given fraudulent documents about the artifact, including a forged 1971 Egyptian export license. Export licenses are granted once entities are verified and vetted to engage in transactions outside and across country lines.


The return was announced during a repatriation ceremony in New York City that was attended by the Egyptian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Sameh Hassan Shoukry. In response to the apology and the return of the coffin, the Egyptian minister said, "This is not only for Egyptians but this is for our common human heritage.

Though these artifacts were stolen in a different manner, repatriating cultural relics to their rightful owners has been a

hot topic as of late–including as a plotline for a record-breaking movie. Many African countries are speaking to their former colonizers and demanding artifacts be returned.
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Photo by Don Paulsen/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Hugh Masekela's New York City Legacy

A look back at the South African legend's time in New York City and his enduring presence in the Big Apple.

In Questlove's magnificent documentary, Summer of Soul, he captures a forgotten part of Black American music history. But in telling the tale of the 1969 Harlem Cultural Festival, the longtime musician and first-time filmmaker also captures a part of lost South African music history too.

Among the line-up of blossoming all-stars who played the Harlem festival, from a 19-year-old Stevie Wonder to a transcendent Mavis Staples, was a young Hugh Masekela. 30 years old at the time, he was riding the wave of success that came from releasing Grazing in the Grass the year before. To watch Masekela in that moment on that stage is to see him at the height of his time in New York City — a firecracker musician who entertained his audiences as much as he educated them about the political situation in his home country of South Africa.

The legacy Masekela sowed in New York City during the 1960s remains in the walls of the venues where he played, and in the dust of those that are no longer standing. It's in the records he made in studios and jazz clubs, and on the Manhattan streets where he once posed with a giant stuffed zebra for an album cover. It's a legacy that still lives on in tangible form, too, in the Hugh Masekela Heritage Scholarship at the Manhattan School of Music.

The school is the place where Masekela received his education and met some of the people that would go on to be life-long bandmates and friends, from Larry Willis (who, as the story goes, Masekela convinced to give up opera for piano) to Morris Goldberg, Herbie Hancock and Stewart Levine, "his brother and musical compadre," as Mabusha Masekela, Bra Hugh's nephew says.

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