Looted artefacts, imperialist statues: is repatriation and removal the answer?
Monday 22 February 2016 13.29 GMT
Cambridge University students have voted that a bronze cockerel looted from Benin in 1897 is to be repatriated from Jesus hall, Cambridge University, to Nigeria.
Ore Ogunbiyi, the JCSU racial equalities officer behind the campaign, wrote on her blog: “It’s quite nice to see Jesus setting a precedent and taking steps in the right direction to weed out the colonial legacies that exist in bits of the university … but how exciting and momentous and revolutionary is this?”
As well as looting art, the British killed thousands of people and set the city at the centre of the Benin empire, in modern-day Nigeria, on fire during the expedition in which the bronze cockerel was obtained. Nigeria has repeatedly asked for all Benin bronzes to be repatriated.
The cockerel is the latest art piece to cause controversy, forcing difficult conversations over the suitability of art pieces in their current context. A plaque dedicated to the imperialist Cecil Rhodes was removed from Oriel college at Oxford University last December after a successful student campaign by the UK-based supporters of the South African Rhodes Must Fall campaign. Yet a campaign to remove a statue of the British imperialist from the college last month failed to find enough support.