The Africa Museum in Brussels reopened at the end of 2018 after a 5 year renovation. Tiffany and Fiammetta Rocco, culture correspondent at The Economist, tour the museum with its Director-General, Guido Gryseels, and assess its attempts to come to terms with a horrific past.
The Africa Museum (officially called the Royal Museum for Central Africa) grew out of the Brussels International Exposition of 1897. The Colonial Pavilion, located at King Leopold II of Belgium’s estate, formed the basis of the museum. It was intended to celebrate his achievements in what was then the Congo Free State, which he ran as his private estate. In 1909, when Leopold died, the museum was transferred to the Belgian state, and opened a year later as the Museum of Belgian Congo.
Tiffany, Fiammetta and Guido talk about the museum’s attempt to tell the story of Belgian rule in the Congo, which was unparalleled in its cruelty and mass killing. Under the reign of terror instituted by Leopold, as many as 8 million Africans (perhaps even 10 million, according to Adam Hochschild) lost their lives.
Guido Gryseel’s biography
► FEATURED ARTISTS
Take a look at Freddy Tsimba’s website and see more of his artwork:
Here, Aimé Mpane talks about his installation Congo: Shadow of the Shadow (2005), on loan to the LACMA from the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of African Art. The piece uses the play of light and shadow, to explore the re-shaping of power during the colonial period in Congo
► READING AND FURTHER INFORMATION
Adam Hochschild’s King Leopold's Ghost: A Story of Greed, Terror and Heroism in Colonial Africa is the book on the exploitation of the Congo Free State by King Leopold II of Belgium between 1885 and 1908, as well as the large-scale atrocities committed during that period.
Signature tune: Nick Vander, "Galaxy I" from the album Black Kopal
► PICTURES AND SOCIAL MEDIA
Behind the Scenes at the Museum is on Twitter & Instagram: @BehindtheMuseum
Behind the Scenes at the Museum is written and presented by Tiffany Jenkins and produced by Jac Phillimore.