*Oba Ewuare II, Others Excited
A century, two decades and four years after over 300 of some of the most prized cultural artefacts were looted from the Bini Kingdom during the 1897 British invasion, the Jesus College, Cambridge University, England, has returned the one in its possession.
The university handed over the statue, a bronze cockerel named Okukor, to a delegation, comprising representatives of both the National Commission for Museum and Monument, led by Professor Abba Issa Tijani, and others from Edo State.
Cambridge University reportedly took the decision to return the artefact in 2019 following a spate of students protest campaigns after which it was removed from display at the college.
The university described the return as both significant and momentous.
“This is a massively significant and momentous occasion. Returning the artefact was the right thing to do as the bronze piece is of cultural and spiritual significance to the people of Nigeria,” Master of Jesus College, Sonita Alleyne, said.
The return and subsequent handover mark another milestone in the process of bringing back the over 3000 artefacts stolen some 124 years ago from the Bini Kingdom.
Obviously elated with the development, Benin monarch, Omo N’Oba N’Edo, Uku Akpolokpolor, Oba Ewuare II, described the gesture as noteworthy, being part of past efforts that led to the return of two other artefacts in 2014, by the grandchildren of some British soldiers whose parents took part in the notorious 1897 British Expedition.
Oba Ewuare was particularly full of gratitude to the student body of Cambridge for bringing to the fore the historical significance of the revered piece of artefact to the royal court of Benin.
“We are indeed very pleased and commend Jesus College for taking this lead in making restitution for the plunder that occurred in Benin in 1897. We truly hope that others will expedite the return of our artworks which in many cases are of religious importance to us,’’ he said.
Meanwhile, the University of Aberdeen, Scotland, United Kingdom, has also handed over another artefacts to the Benin Kingdom. The sculpture, which depicts the head of the kingdom’s monarch, was purchased by the university in an auction in 1957. It is the second to be returned to Nigeria since they were carted away over one hundred years ago.
Principal and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Aberdeen, Professor George Boyne, pointed out that returning the bronze work was only the right and just thing to do.
“Over the last 40 years, the Benin Bronzes have become important symbols of injustice. It would not have been right to have retained an item of such great cultural significance that was acquired in such reprehensible circumstances.’’
Credit to the Punch newspapers.