Cambridge University Returns Looted Benin Bronze Artefact ‘Okukor’ To Nigeria

This undated handout photograph received from the University of Cambridge on October 27, 2021, shows the elaborately carved cockerel, known as “Okukor”, which was handed over to a delegation of Nigerian officials during a ceremony at Jesus College, University of Cambridge, Cambridge on October 27, 2021. Chris LOADES / University of Cambridge / AFP

Nigeria has received a Benin bronze artefact from the University of Cambridge, more than a hundred years after it was taken from the country.

At a ceremony on Wednesday in the UK, the university handed over the artefact to the National Commission for Museums and Monuments, in a move it earlier described as the “first institutional return of its kind.”

The Nigerian delegation was led by the head of the agency, Abba Tijani, to receive the elaborately 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,” he said.

Tijani, who spoke during the ceremony to hand over the treasure, stated that it was the first time a UK institution would give back a Benin bronze.

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

Cambridge’s Jesus College removed the cockerel from public display in 2016 after a campaign by students arguing it was a symbol of Britain’s colonial past.

Several other western institutions have said they also plan to hand looted African treasures back.

But the British Museum, which has the world’s largest collection of Benin bronzes, has not done so.