In an editorial essay, Suzette Scotti writes about "Do Unto Others as You Would Have Them Do Unto You: the Axum Obelisk" in the Fall 2013 issue of The Journal of Art Crime:
In October of 1935, Mussolini invaded Ethiopia in accordance with his plan to resurrect the ancient Roman Empire and restore dignity and prosperity to the Italian people. Emulating his imperial predecessors, who crowned their military victories by looting and plundering the sacred treasures of the conquered peoples, Mussolini personally ordered the removal of one of the monumental obelisks of Axum to Rome as war booty. The mammoth 1,700 year old monument, a potent symbol of Ethiopian independence and national identity, was inextricably linked to the Ethiopian's heritage, a cherished symbol of a sophisticated civilization that had once rivaled that of Rome. Mussolin's appropriation of this emotionally charged symbol unequivocally conveyed his message to the world that Ethiopia was now Italian. While Italy was soon forced to relinquish its brief "place in the sun" with the defeat of the Axis powers in 1945, the looted obelisk would remain in Rome for another sixty-eight years, an unsettling reminder of Italy's fascist past and an ongoing insult to Ethiopian sovereignty. Delays over its restitution spawned a controversy that was only resolved in 2005, when the last segment of the obelisk was finally returned to its homeland. The saga of the restitution of the Axum obelisk reflects current debates over repatriation of artifacts seized as war booty by colonial powers, and provides an encouraging example of how, after years of injustice, the fabric of peace and friendship can be rewoven when countries respect each other's cultural heritage.
Suzette Scotti teaches Art History at Leeward Community College, a campus of the University of Hawaii. She serves on the Board of the Hawaii Museums Association and is a docent at the Honolulu Museum of Art and Bishop Museum. She taught for a decade in Rome, indulging her passion for Italian art, as well as in Spain, Switzerland, and Japan. She speaks fluent Italian, French, and Spanish. Suzette earned a B.A. in English from Vassar College, a Diploma in Legal Studies from Queen's College, Cambridge University, an M.A. in English Literature from the University of Virginia, where she wrote her master's thesis on Simone Martini's St. Louis of Toulouse altarpiece. She first became interested in art crime while living in Rome, where she could see the looted obelisk of Axum from her living room window.
You may finish reading this editorial essay in the Fall 2013 issue of The Journal of Art Crime. Design for this issue and all issues of The Journal of Art Crime is the work of Urška Charney. Here's a link to ARCA's website on The Journal of Art Crime (includes Table of Contents for previous issues).