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Cambridge College Removes ‘Racist’ Bronze Cock After Student Demands

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A constituent college of the University of Cambridge has bowed to pressure from student activists and removed a bronze cockerel from its main hall after accusations it was “racist”.

Jesus College said that it now may “repatriate” the cockerel, known as the okukor, to Nigeria after students said it celebrated the colonial past.

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The cockerel was bequeathed to the college in 1930 by George William Neville, an army captain whose son was a student there. It holds symbolic value because the college’s coat of arms features three black cockerels.

The college’s student union last month passed a resolution to supporting calls to return it to Africa. The Times reports that at one point during the debate a student snapped: “The opinion of two white men is not valid.”

The motion was proposed by Amatey Doku, a student from Ghana, who claimed the cockerel was stolen as part of a reprisal for the killing of British traders. He called on the college to commission a new work and hold a ceremony to repatriate it.

Another student, Ore Ogunbiyi, seconded the motion, saying: “We spoke to a bronze repatriation expert who said that grown men cried after the return of pieces in 2014.”

Yesterday, the college caved in to the demands, issuing a statement 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 commits to work actively with the wider university and to commit resources to new initiatives with Nigerian heritage and museum authorities to discuss and determine the best future for the okukor, including the question of repatriation.”

The college’s decision raises fears that other radical student protesters will now be emboldened to make further demands.

Oriel College, Oxford, has been subject to a long campaign by students to remove a statue of Cecil Rhodes. Although it initially offered a lengthy consultation and applied for permission to remove a separate plaque dedicated to his honour, it backtracked after widespread criticism it was rewriting history.

Student activists are also campaigning to remove a statue of Queen Victoria from Royal Holloway, University of London because it describes her as “Empress of India”.

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