Cambridge University has agreed to permanently remove the controversial bronze cockerel which was looted from the Benin Empire in the 19th century. The university also opened the platform to discuss the possible repatriation of the artefact to Nigeria. Despite calls by Africans for the return of looted religious and cultural artefacts, a large number of these artefacts still remain in European and Western museums and in the hands of private collectors. We ask, who should own these historic artefacts?
Cambridge University’s council at Jesus College has agreed that the controversial bronze cockerel which was looted from the Benin Empire in the 19th century should be permanently removed, theGuardian reports. The university also opened the platform to discuss the possible repatriation of the artefact.
Students at Cambridge’s Jesus College have previously made calls and voted that the cockerel known as “okukor” should be repatriated to Nigeria.
The statue, also known as the Benin Bronze, was snatched from the palace at Oba in 1897 and has been at the college since 1930.
There are numerous artefacts of great cultural and economic value that were looted from various African empires during colonial expeditions, and some are still kept in museums, learning institutions and private homes.
Despite calls by Africans for the return of their looted cultural artefacts, a large number of these artefacts have not been returned. However, fervent debate on postcolonial history and consciousness continues to question and problematise the ownership of these artefacts and their restitution.
Some of the artefacts repatriated
Ethiopia’s Axum Obelisk a 1,700-year old, 24-metre-tall granite obelisk, was looted by Italy and returned in 2005.
Zimbabwe bird, carved soapstone. Looted from the Great Zimbabwe ruins and kept in a German museum until it was repatriated in 2003.
Carved wooden totems of the Mijikenda people repatriated to Kenyan in 2007.
Some of the artefacts yet to be returned
The Rosetta Stone. Ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs script removed from Egypt and currently housed in a British Museum.
Nefertiti Bust, a 3,300-year-old bust on display in Neues Museum, Berlin.