Cambridge University’s Jesus College bronze cockerel on final leg of return journey to Nigeria

Jesus College is set to return a Benin Bronze to Nigeria’s National Commission for Museums and Monuments (NCMM) on Wednesday 27 October.

The Benin bronze, known as “okukor”, was given to Jesus College in 1905 and is a cockerel kept at Cambridge University that had been looted in a British raid on what is now Nigeria.

Delegates from the NCMM and Benin will visit Jesus College for a ceremony to complete the handover process and celebrate the rightful return of the Bronze.

In 2016 it was removed from display and the Legacy of Slavery Working Party (LSWP) recommended it be returned, reports the BBC.

The college said it became the first institution in the world to announce its decision to return a Benin Bronze, in 2019.

The LSWP, which includes academics and students, was set up in 2019 by the college to investigate historical links it may have to the slave trade.

The group concluded that the statue “belongs with the current Oba at the Court of Benin”.

His Royal Majesty, Oba of Benin, Omo N’Oba N’Edo Uku Akpolokpolo, Ewuare II has commended Jesus College for taking the lead in making restitution for the plunder that occurred in Benin in 1897.

“We truly hope that others will expedite the return of our artworks which in many cases are of religious importance to us. We wish to thank our President Buhari and our National Commission for Museums and Monuments for their renewed efforts in securing the release of our artefacts on our behalf.

“Finally, we wish to thank the student body of Cambridge University for bringing to light the historical significance of this revered piece of the Royal Court of Benin. It is worthy of note that our father attended Cambridge University but was then Prince Solomon Akenzua. He later ascended the throne of our forefathers as Omo N’Oba Erediauwa, Oba of Benin,” he said.

Alhaji Lai Mohammed, Nigeria’s Minister of Information and Culture, was thankful to Jesus College for being a trailblazer, adding, “we look forward to a similar return of our artefacts by other institutions that are in possession of them.”

Master of Jesus College Sonita Alleyne said it was a “historic moment”.

“This is the right thing to do out of respect for the unique heritage and history of this artefact,” she said.

About 900 of those artefacts are housed in museums and collections around the world, including the British Museum.

Jesus College’s bronze cockerel, donated by a parent of a student, took pride of place in the college dining hall.


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