Cambridge University returns to Nigeria, Benin bronze artefact ‘Okukor’ looted in 1897

Cambridge University returns to Nigeria, Benin bronze artefact ‘Okukor’ looted in 1897

After more than 100 years, University of Cambridge has returned to Nigeria a looted Benin bronze artefact ‘Okukor’.

The university handed over the artefact to the National Commission for Museums and Monuments at a ceremony on Wednesday in the UK.

The university described the move as the “first institutional return of its kind.”

National Commission for Museums and Monuments Head, Abba Tijani, led a Nigerian delegation to receive the carved cockerel, known as “Okukor”.

“We’re excited, very happy to see that this artefact, which has been away from Nigeria for decades, is in good shape,”  Tijani said at the event.

He said it was the first time a UK institution would give back a Benin bronze.

The bronze was looted from the Benin Kingdom — now part of Nigeria — in 1897 when Britain had a foothold on the African continent.

In 2016, Cambridge’s Jesus College removed the cockerel from public display following a campaign by students that the artifact was a symbol of Britain’s colonial past.

Meanwhile, several other western institutions have promised they would return looted African treasures back, but the British Museum, which remains the world’s largest collection of Benin bronzes, does not have such a plan yet.

Recently, there has been mounting pressure for colonial-era treasures to be returned to countries they were looted from. Black Lives Matter movement played a major role in this.

Already, the Quai Branly museum in Paris, is exhibiting a trove of Benin treasures for the last time before returning them to Nigeria.

The University of Aberdeen, Scotland, is also set to return another Benin bronze to Nigeria.

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