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Profiles - November 28, 2019

Controversial Benin Bronze Cockerel to be Returned to Nigeria

A controversial bronze cockerel looted from ancient Benin Empire is set to be returned back to Nigeria.

The bronze sculpture which was among thousands of antiquities stolen from Benin City, the Edo State capital, in an expedition in 1897 by British colonial.

It was then donated to the Jesus College, Cambridge in 1905. The same institution has now pledged to return to Nigeria

In a report by the Guardian, the bronze cockerel called ‘The Okukor’ has been labelled by the college as a “royal ancestral heirloom” and will be one of the first Benin bronzes to be returned to Nigeria by a major British institution.

The return of the bronze cockerel was recommended by Jesus College’s Legacy of Slavery Working Party, a group dedicated to looking at the institution’s connections to slavery, which confirmed the piece was donated in 1905 by the father of a student.

Although no specific date has been fixed for the return of The Okukor, Jesus College has said that the bronze cockerel “belongs with the current Oba at the Court of Benin.”

Sonita Alleyne, the master of Jesus College, said the decision was not to “erase history” but was “diligent and careful” work that looked into the wider legacy of slavery at Jesus College.

“We are an honest community, and after a thorough investigation into the provenance of the Benin bronze…our job is to seek the best way forward,” she said.

The bronze cockerel had been removed from public view since 2016.

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