The New Museum of Black Civilisations Dakar Senegal
After 52 years of waiting, Senegal is finally opening what is described as the largest museum of Black civilization in the capital, Dakar.
With close to 14,000 square metres of floor space and capacity for 18,000 exhibits, the new Museums of Black Civilisation is already capable of competing with the National Museum of African American History in Washington.
Inside the Museum of Black Civilizations, visitors will find ambitious displays spanning both centuries and continents. The exhibition Cradle of Humankind, for instance, looks back to human origins in Africa and features early stone tools. African Civilizations: Continuous Creation of Humanity delves into the history of masks and “the traditions of Sufism and Christianity in Africa,” according to Kate Brown Artnet News. Another exhibition hall includes Africa Now, showcasing contemporary African art and The Caravan and Caravel, which explores the story of the trade in human beings – across the Atlantic and through the Sahara – that gave rise to new communities of Africans in the Americas. These diaspora communities – such as in Brazil, the United States and the Caribbean – are recognized as African civilizations in their own right.
The collections, however, are not complete, but the museum says its operations will be independent.
Since the museum could contain works owned by France since colonization, Senegal’s culture minister has called for the restitution by France of all Senegalese artwork on the back of a French report urging the return of African art treasures.
Apart from suffering from the negative consequences of colonialism, Africans have had to negotiate for the return of valuable historical cultural artefacts that were smuggled out of their countries. These priceless monuments, which symbolize African identity are currently scattered across the world, with an impressive number in British and French Museums.
Many African countries have called for the return of these treasures but are yet to receive any positive response from these western countries, which are making huge sums of money from these objects, with some even insisting that they were obtained legally.
French President Emmanuel Macron recently announced that his country will return 26 artefacts taken from Benin in 1892. The thrones and statues, currently on display at the Quai Branly museum in Paris, were taken during a colonial war against the then Kingdom of Dahomey.
Senegal’s late president Leopold Sedar Senghor was the first to propose the idea of a museum about the civilizations of Black Africa during the world festival of Black artists in Dakar in 1966.
In December 2011, Senegalese President Abdoulaye Wade laid the foundation stone in the capital Dakar but works were suspended during a political change until the subsequent leader, Macky Sall set the project rolling between December 2013 and December 2015. Senegal is not the only African nation to recently launch a new art museum; a major institution is also under construction in Nigeria, for instance.