Addis Ababa, May 21, 2002 (WIC)- The Executive Committee of SOFIES, the Society of
Friends of the Institute of Ethiopian Studies, yesterday passed a resolution welcoming the
cancellation of the proposed Auction of the important Al J Ventner Collection of Ethiopian
Christian Art, by the Buterfields Auction House in the United States.
According to an E-mail message sent to WIC today SOFIES also demanded that the sale of
these treasures in the future should under no circumstances whatsoever be allowed to take
The message said Ethiopian lovers of their cultural heritage have long been clamouring for its
preservation. Many of them are advocating the return of the loot taken by the British from
Maqdala in 1868, and from Aksum and elsewhere in Ethiopia by Fascist Italy in 1936-7.
It said The Society believes that Ethiopian Tabots, or altars symbolically representing the Ark
of the Covenant, are of inestimable religious significance, and belong to the Ethiopian Orthodox
Church, to which they should be returned forthwith, thus following the precedent of the Tabot
recently returned from Edinburgh, Scotland.
SOFIES declared that the Ethiopian people, like those of other countries, have a right to
their cultural treasures and that these should be preserved in Ethiopia for future generations.
The Society further called on all people of good will, and lovers of art, throughout the world to
collaborate with the Ethiopian Ministry of Youth, Sport and Culture in its efforts to preserve
Ethiopia's heritage, and to assist in the speedy repatriation of Ethiopia's artistic treasures to
the country's museums.