Senegal unveils Museum of Black Civilisations

Published: December 07, 2018 15:41:24 | Updated: December 12, 2018 16:18:08

The idea of opening such a museum in Senegal dates back more than 50 years. Photo: Collected

President Macky Sall has inaugurated Senegal's new Museum of Black Civilisations in the capital, Dakar.

It follows calls from Senegal and other African nations for France to return art it looted during the colonial era.

Among the first temporary exhibitions to be shown is work of artists from Mali and Burkina Faso as well as from Cuba and Haiti.

After decades of inaction, construction was finally made possible after a $34 million (£27 million) Chinese investment.

President Macky Sall cut the ceremonial ribbon during the inauguration

The idea of establishing the museum dates back more than 50 years, to Senegal's late poet-president, Léopold Sédar Senghor.

Along with Martinican writer Aimé Césaire, Senghor was a creative force behind the philosophy of Négritude, which opposed the imposition of French culture on colonies in Africa and the Caribbean.

This striated kifwebe mask hails from the Democratic Republic of Congo

The museum will not be a commemorative monument, its director says, but rather a creative laboratory to help shape a continent's sense of identity.

It is expected to open to the public in the coming weeks.

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"This museum is a step forward for us," Amadou Moustapha Dieng, a Senegalese arts journalist told media.

"I know there are important relics which I'm not able to see unless I go abroad, but now (with) this space, we can get back the relics and Africans can come here now and see this was their history."

The Museum of Black Civilisations has changed the landscape of downtown Dakar.

Built in a circular shape, the architecture was inspired by traditional homes typical to southern Senegal.

In November an experts' report, commissioned by France's President Emmanuel Macron, recommended that African treasures taken without permission be returned to their countries of origin, according to BBC.

Senegal's Culture Minister Abdou Latif Coulibaly said he welcomed the French report as "every piece from Senegal is in France".

The museum has a pan-African focus with pieces from across Africa and the Caribbean

The African state with the highest number of art pieces in France is Chad, another former colony.

This Songye mask originates from the Democratic Republic of Congo

The museum's bosses hope they will "be able to turn Senegal into an intellectual and cultural capital of the black world".

For years, Dakar has been aiming to position itself as a cultural capital in the region. With President Macky Sall running for re-election in 2019, the government is hoping that the opening of the museum will help it achieve the goal.

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