Put out of action: colonial sculptures move
2023 marks an important moment of reflection on its role in the past, present and future for the AfricaMuseum with both its 125th anniversary and its five-year reopening after renovation. As part of this, the sculpture depot disappears from the permanent display.
A group of sculptures were placed in depot display in 2018 because of their stereotypical portrayal of Africans and glorification of the colony and its founders at the start of the visitors’ trail. These images were displayed there together with the aim of deconstructing the clichéd colonial propaganda, whose detrimental effects still live on, and encouraging a dialogue on imagery, racism and colonisation. However, the current arrangement proves insufficiently clear: the depot character is not recognisable at a glance and the group of images thus continues to unintentionally contribute to the negative image of Africa. Therefore, the museum prefers to remove these sculptures from the permanent visitor trail. The sculptures will be displayed in a more discreet location, where guided tours will delve deeper into the museum’s history and colonial imagery. Many other examples of colonial, negative imagery remain in the permanent exhibition, but with the adequate context and interpretation. This is the case, for example, in the museum’s Great Rotunda.
New space for temporary exhibitions
Along with the move of the sculpture depot, part of the adjacent introduction area will be freed up to create a new exhibition space in the museum. This space will serve for temporary exhibitions of limited scale. The first exhibition will focus on an important and current research area of the museum, namely provenance research. This will involve an in-depth examination of how objects were acquired from the collections.
The new exhibition will open in early 2024. The dismantling of the sculpture depot and introduction area will start this summer.
Credit : YVES HERMAN/ REUTERS