Belgian colonial museum re-opens amid protests and calls for for return of artifacts


Written by Rob Picheta, CNN

Belgium’s controversial Africa Museum re-opened on Saturday after a five-year renovation, however protests and a request from the President of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) for the return of its stolen artefacts have overshadowed the location’s unveiling.

A 66 million euro ($75 million) improve was meant to assist the Royal Museum for Central Africa, which homes gadgets looted from what’s now the DRC throughout Belgium’s brutal occupation of the nation, shed its imperialist picture.

However DRC President Joseph Kabila advised Belgian newspaper Le Soir final week he could be making a proper request for the return of artifacts from his nation in time for the opening of the nation’s personal museum subsequent 12 months.

And protests happened Saturday in opposition to the museum’s show of things plundered from the continent, with activists additionally demanding a memorial to seven Congolese individuals who died in 1897 after being dropped at Belgium as residing displays.

King Leopold II, who oversaw a colonial empire often known as the Belgian Congo, put a complete of 267 Congolese folks on show in Tervuren, the place right this moment’s museum is positioned, as a part of the World’s Honest.

A sculpture called the "Leopard Man," second left, is stored with others in a cavernous room at the Africa Museum.

A sculpture known as the “Leopard Man,” second left, is saved with others in a cavernous room on the Africa Museum. Credit score: Virginia Mayo/AP

“These victims deserve the identical respect, if no more, than these of the useless colonialists,” protest group Intal Congo stated.

Belgium had a colony in Africa from the 1880s to 1960, overlaying land in what’s now the DRC, Rwanda and Burundi, which was exploited to reap rubber and different sources.

Tens of millions had been put into pressured labor and subjected to brutal punishments, with 10 million Congolese workers believed to have died in just 20 years.

“Earlier than the renovation, the everlasting exhibition was outdated and its presentation not very crucial of the colonial picture. A brand new scenography was urgently required,” the museum admits on its web site.

“The large problem was to current a up to date and decolonised imaginative and prescient of Africa in a constructing which had been designed as a colonial museum,” the assertion provides.

To create a extra “crucial” tone, the museum will now characteristic movies analyzing African viewpoints of the interval and a sculpture by Congolese artists Aimé Mpané.

However protesters in opposition to the location have demanded a brand new relationship to be established between Belgium and its former colonies, “primarily based on solidarity and cooperation on an equal footing.”

The museum didn’t instantly reply to a request for remark.

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