MILDRED EUROPA TAYLOR
Last month, a Cambridge University college announced that it had handed over an artifact looted by British soldiers to Nigeria. Jesus College became the first U.K. institution to give back one of the artifacts known as the Benin Bronzes. The college returned a looted bronze cockerel known as the “Okukur” to Nigeria’s National Commission for Museums and Monuments.
The return of the artifact came amid calls on Western countries to return artifacts looted during colonization. Benin City was the capital of Benin Kingdom, one of the most highly developed states in Africa, when it was ransacked and burnt down in 1897 by British forces. Its destruction in what became known as the Benin Expedition of 1897 led to the fall of the once successful and well-recognized Benin Kingdom located in what is now southern Nigeria.
Britain’s punitive expedition did not only lead to the deaths of gallant chiefs but also took away various works of art including Ivory and bronze works. Today, most of these works of art are held in prominent museums, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the British Museum. Two of the Benin Bronzes were in 2014 returned by a British citizen, Mark Walker, leading to calls for repatriation of more artifacts.