Jesus students victorious as college agrees to remove stolen Benin Bronze from hall

But the college still hasn’t confirmed whether the Okukor will be repatriated.


After pressure from students, Jesus College has agreed to “permanently remove” the cockerel from display in the hall.

The Benin Bronze cockerel was looted from the Benin Kingdom in modern-day Nigeria in the “Punitive Expedition” of 1897 and donated to Jesus, whose symbol is a cock, in 1930.

Since independence, Nigeria has pleaded with museums around the world to return the precious artefacts.

Benin Bronzes in a London museum.

Benin Bronzes in a London museum.

In February a working group of students succesfully passed a JCSU motion to push for its repatriation.  The administration finally responded to the motion, saying: “Jesus College acknowledges the contribution made by students in raising the important but complex question of the rightful location of its Benin Bronze, in response to which it has permanently removed the Okukor from its hall.”

The college said it would work with “museum authorities to discuss and determine the best future for the Okukor, including the question of repatriation”.

Nigerian commentator Cynthia Okoroafor, speaking to Ventures Africa, agreed that the Okukor should be returned but questioned the motives behind the move and wondered whether it might be more to do with the college wanting to “appear as some kind of hero”.

The Okukor.

The Okukor.

Joanna Williams, lecturer in higher education at the University of Kent, toldThe Daily Mail that it was a “cowardly” move:   “I think students have declared war on the past and this is another example of how students are using history as a morality play to express their own moral superiority in the present.”

The news came a day before Rhodes Must Fall’s march in Oxford, held to protest Oriel College’s selling “out to big money” and refusing to remove the statue of colonialist Cecil Rhodes.

A shot from the march.

A shot from the march. Credit: Anna Lukina.

A spokesman for Rhodes Must Fall, speaking to The Guardian, welcomed the debate triggered by the Benin bronze decision: “We see this as the beginning of a reckoning with Britain’s involvement with its colonial past.”

The Tab has contacted a member of the Benin Bronze Appreciation Committee for comment.