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Mayor vows to carry on fighting to recover Thomas Baines paintings from Zimbabwe

PUBLISHED: 10:47 24 March 2011

One of the collection of sketches by King's Lynn artist Thomas Baines of boatmen in the rapids of Victoria Falls.

One of the collection of sketches by King's Lynn artist Thomas Baines of boatmen in the rapids of Victoria Falls.

Archant

West Norfolk mayor Zipha Christopher has vowed to continue to fight to recover artwork by a Norfolk explorer that is "on loan" to an African country even after her term in office ends.

The borough mayor began her quest to recover the paintings and sketches produced by Lynn-born Thomas Baines from Zimbabwe last year but has found the task of re-patronising the items difficult.

The 40-plus items were sent out “on loan” in 1947 by King’s Lynn Council to the government of Southern Rhodesia, now part of Zimbabwe, and have never been returned.

But the mayor is hopeful Baines’ paintings could be returned to the county after a meeting with a London-based company which has enjoyed success in a similar case recently.

She said: “It was a very interesting meeting. They seemed positive but there are lots of things they need me to do and find out.

“It is a step forward but getting these pieces of artwork back is going to take some time.

“I had hoped to get them back during my time as mayor but I don’t think this will happen now.

“I will, however, keep working hard after my year in office ends to recover the paintings and sketches because I am passionate about them.”

The vow from the mayor comes after the oldest living descendant of Baines, John Youngman, vowed to personally write to president Mugabe demanding the artwork be returned to the county.

It also follows Prince Charles joining a campaign to save Lynn’s Hanse House – a venue where the paintings, if recovered, could go on show.

The majority of the paintings sent to the government of Southern Rhodesia show off South Africa’s stunning scenery like Table Mountain in Cape Town.

Mrs Christopher, who lived in Rhodesia as a child for a few years, has said there would be national and international interest in the artwork should they return to the county.

However, relations between Zimbabwe and its former colonial ruler have been strained for years with president Mugabe denouncing Britain on many occasions and blaming it as the source of Zimbabwe’s woes.

As well as being part of expeditions across southern Africa, Baines was also sent to northern Australia to join a quest to find suitable colonial settlement in the 1850s.

He was also presented with the Freedom of the Borough of King’s Lynn in 1857 and died on May 8, 1875 from dysentery in Durban, South Africa.

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