Cambridge University to Return Looted Bronze Statue to Nigeria

The bronze statue named Okukor from West Africa has been held by Jesus College, Cambridge since the 1930s.

This image made available by Jesus College Cambridge on Thursday Nov. 28, 2019, shows a bronze statue of a cockerel. Photography: Chris Loades/Jesus College Cambridge via AP.

Jesus College has decided that a Benin Bronze statue of a cockerel will be returned, and that we will acknowledge and contextualise Tobias Rustat’s role in our history, the college stated. The bronze statue is the mascot for the College, named after its founder, John Alcock, the Bishop of Ely.

The Benin bronze was believed to have been taken from the Kingdom by the British expedition of 1897, who was sent to punish the Oba of Benin after several British officials were killed.

After the Cecil Rhodes controversy at Oxford University, Jesus College, Cambridge has witnessed a similar debate in its own Students’ Union. Students suggested Okukor could be replaced with something of the college’s choice.

The statue was removed from public view in 2016 after students protested, saying it represented a symbol of looted art and colonialism, with demands that it be sent back to Nigeria.

Benin Bronze Appreciation Committee (BBAC) put forward the motion to return the statue to Nigeria in a repatriation ceremony, in an effort to “weed out the colonial legacies that exist” in the University.  When and how the bronze cockerel will be returned remain unknown.



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