‘Largest Museum Of Black Culture’ With Over 18,000 Pieces Of Art Opens In Senegal
By Sharelle Burt
The Museum of Black Civilizations opened on December 6, 2018 in Senegal.
Described as the largest museum of black culture, the building would not be in existence without the help of China, who donated $34.6 million to the cause. With over 18,000 pieces of art, the museum is being used for the conservation of cultural values of black people and to emulate a positive representation of Africa for the world to see.
Opening in the capital city of Dakar, this project has been a long time in the making. The country’s late president, Leopold Sedar Senghor, first presented the idea back in 1966 during a festival of black artists. It wasn’t until 45 years later that Senegalese President Abdoulaye Wade laid down the building foundation, but construction was put on hold due to some political issues. Once new leadership was in place, the project was set back in motion between December 2013 and December 2015. “This building, just like all others within the Cultural Park will not be considered as a Senegalese monument, but an African monument,” Wade said when the first stone was put down.
The museum has two levels that explore the history of black people, starting from the very beginning to the progress we continue to make today. “Visitors will travel from the Neolithic to the multiplicity of African cultures, through the Iron Age, to understand the contributions of Africa to the scientific and technical heritage,” News Africa reports. “The director of the museum boasts a modern scenography, with the latest technologies, to dialogue paintings, sculptures, masks, and some masterpieces.”
With African museums popping up globally, director Hamady Bocoum says that this one won’t resemble the others and will give a completely different experience. Bocoum says “the ‘pan-African project’ will be proof that the African man is well in history.” The museum also will display works owned by France since colonization. Senegal’s culture minister has put in a call to France for the restitution of all Senegalese artwork. So has French President Emmanuel Macron, who recently announced that France will return 26 artifacts taken from Benin in 1892, which are currently on display at the Quai Branly museum in Paris.
Some of Senegal’s stolen treasures have since been returned to the country just in time to be showcased in the museum. A 19th-century sword that once belonged to Omar Saidou Tall, a prominent Muslim leader in the 1800s, can be seen hanging in a glass case for visitors to see. There are close to 10 other items, including a drum and old Quran, that are out on loan from Le Havre in France. Dekar’s director Hamady Bocoum is hoping that the museum will be able to keep the artifacts for good. “Or maybe this will be back forever,” Bocoum laughs. “However many works there are in the Senegalese collections in France or anywhere else, we want everything back in Senegal because these artworks are ours and should be back where they belong.”
While that trade-off is in progress, the Museum of Black Civilizations is reported to be one of the elements of the Cultural Park, including the Grand National Theater, the School of Beautiful Arts, the School of Architecture and the Music Palace, the Contemporary Art Museum, the National Library combined with the National Archives.
President Wade refers to them as the “seven wonders.”