A museum showcasing black heritage from the dawn of time
to the modern era has opened in the Senegalese capital Dakar.
The opening came as African countries press harder for
the restitution of artwork from their former colonial masters — and as France
made its first steps in that direction, pledging to return artworks to
The Museum of Black Civilisations will foster the
“dialogue of cultures” and offer a “new view of Africa and its diaspora, which
recognises our part in the great human adventure,” said Senegalese President
Macky Sall as he opened the museum last week.
”Today rekindles in us the precursors of pan-Africanism
and African identity,” added Sall after cutting the symbolic ribbon at the
ceremony. Among the guests was Chinese Culture Minister Luo Shugang, whose
country financed the project to the tune of US$34mil (RM142mil).
Spread over 14,000 sq metres, the museum has a capacity
to house 18,000 pieces, said museum director Hamady Bocoum.
Both Bocoum and the museum’s lead scientist Ibrahima
Thioub said the collection, which includes megaliths dating back more than 1,700
years ago alongside contemporary art, would both honour the past and look to the
It should not be “a place of nostalgia but a crucible of
creativity, a factory of self-esteem,” said Thioub, rector of Dakar’s
Such a museum was the dream of Senegal’s first president
Leopold Sedar Senghor, among the drivers of the Negritude literary movement born
in the 1960s.
The poet, who was Senegal’s president from 1960 to 1980,
spoke of it at the first World Festival of Black Arts, held in Dakar in
”We are in the continuity of history,” said
“Through the ages, Africa invented, fashioned and
transformed, thus constantly participating in the flow of innovations. Our duty
is to remain vigilant sentinels of the heritage of the ancients.”
The museum is among several new – or overhauled –
facilities springing up around Africa that bolster growing demands for the
restitution of artworks spirited out of the continent since colonial
Late last month France announced it would return 26
cultural artefacts to Benin. It was a first gesture acting on the findings of a
study commissioned by President Emmanuel Macron on repatriating African
treasures held by French museums.
Senegal was quick to call for the restitution of some
10,000 pieces of Senegalese art from France.
Ivory Coast followed suit the next day, asking for the
return of around 100 works of art.
In a reflection of the museum’s embrace of the ages,
last week’s opening ceremony was followed by a show featuring traditional music
and dance as well as rap and slam performances.