Looted African sculpture is returned to Cambridge College.
In the first repatriation of its sort by a British institution, a Cambridge University college will hand over to Nigeria an African bronze plundered over a century ago.
Thousands of African antiquities were removed from the continent during the colonial period, including this finely carved cockerel known as “Okukor.”
Students demanded that it be returned, and it was finally handed over to Nigerian officials on Wednesday.
“We’re pleased, extremely happy to find that this artefact, which has been out of Nigeria for decades, is in good shape,” said Abba Isa Tijani, the Nigerian National Commission for Museums and Monuments’ director.
He said it was the first time a UK university had returned a Benin bronze, speaking at a ceremony to hand over the prize.
When Britain had a presence on the continent in 1897, the bronze was seized from the kingdom of Benin, which is today part of Nigeria.
Sonita Alleyne, the college’s president, told AFP she was “proud” of the decision to return it, calling it a “moral obligation.”
“It’s completely correct. This is the property of the Nigerian people “she stated
After a student-led campaign, Cambridge’s Jesus College removed the cockerel from public display in 2016, claiming it was an emblem of Britain’s colonial past.
Several other Western institutions have stated that they, too, intend to return looted African artifacts.
However, the British Museum, which houses the world’s biggest collection of Benin bronzes, has yet to do so.
Many are under increasing pressure to return colonial-era artifacts, a movement fueled in part by the Black Lives Matter movement.
This week, the Quai Branly museum in Paris is hosting a final exhibition of Benin treasures before they are returned to the West African country.
Tijani was scheduled to fly to Aberdeen, Scotland, to accept another Benin bronze medal from the University of Aberdeen.