Students at a Cambridge University college have voted that a bronze cockerel that stands in its hall should be repatriated to Africa, from where it was looted in the 19th century.
Taking cognizance of the worth of African antiques, the Jesus College student union (JCSU) recently passed the motion that one of Nigeria’s sculptured bronze cockerel should be given back to the rightful owners. Similar to this, the Nigerian government has made endless requests that the stolen arts works which form part of her cultural heritage be returned.
History has it that the legendary sculpture was unduly taken and transported to Europe after an austere expedition during the colonial era, 1897 to be precise. Benin Bronzes which served as royal ornaments are the indigenous cultural art of the Benin people in Edo State, Nigeria; dating back to as far as the 13th, 15th & 16th centuries. Many of these astounding metal works by way of imperialism found their way to other foreign countries – Europe most especially. It is recorded that while an uncountable number was shipped off; some were “sold in the 1950s & 60s” and even till date are displayed in British Museums.
According to the student’s proposal as contained in Cambridge’s student newspaper,
“The contemporary political culture surrounding colonialism and social justice combined with the university’s global agenda, offers a perfect opportunity for the college to benefit from this gesture.”
It is rather strange that in what seems to be a consensus, not many black students were consulted. As a christian student group that values social and racial equality, the motion was set.
“Although our proposal faced some opposition, we are hopefully on our way to take this cockerel home!… We still have a lot of work to do with logistics and the rest, but how exciting and momentous and revolutionary is this?! What a time to be a Jesuan.” – Ore Ogunbiyi, JCSU Racial Equalities’ Officer
In the midst of the Jesuan progress lies a dilemma for the institution because the bronze cockerel has grown to be a symbolic representation of the school. But for the ethnic Benin descendants, the return of this art work will be a landmark achievement and a sort of consolation for the mayhem released on their fore fathers before most of their valued metal art works and designs were forcefully taken.
Recent development on the students’ proposal reveals that at the moment, Cambridge University authorities are making considerations and somewhat complying with the group.