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Africa Museum removes several colonial propaganda exhibits from public view
The Africa Museum in Tervuren will take away several statues dating back to the colonial era from its tour route, it has announced.
Currently exhibited in an introductory section of the museum that questions colonial propaganda, from 7 August, the statues will be moved to an area only accessible on guided tours.
The "depot of statues", an installation at the start of the visitor’s tour in a downstairs room, was created in 2018 for the museum’s reopening.
The idea was to represent a kind of warehouse to house all the statues representing Africa in a stereotypical way, glorifying the then Belgian colony of the Congo and its founders.
The statues grouped together aimed “to reconstruct colonial propaganda and stimulate a dialogue on the representation of the other, racism and colonisation,” but some criticised the collection as racist.
The museum, which is celebrating its 125-year anniversary this year, now judges that the installation of statues “lacks clarity” and “continues, involuntarily, to contribute to the negative representation of Africa”.
The first part of the museum will therefore be totally reconsidered. The statues will be placed in a “more discreet” place where the history of the museum and representation of the Congo can be addressed in more depth during guided tours if those leading the visits so desire.
“The guides will decide if they integrate these statues into their visit. Many have told us that they will,” said museum spokeswoman Sofie Bouillon. “The statues will not be visible outside of these guided tours.”
The freed-up space will instead be dedicated to temporary exhibitions. The next one, opening in early 2024, will focus on research into the origins of objects in the museum’s collections.
The museum emphasised that other “negative Colonial representations” will remain in the permanent exhibition but will be accompanied by information giving the context along with further explanations.