‘Belgian Africa Museum still neocolonialist’

This 9 December 2018 video says about itself:

Belgium’s Africa museum reopened its doors in the Tervuren Palace outside Brussels on Sunday, after five years of restoration works. The reopening has fueled a debate on whether African artefacts should be given back to their countries of origin, as President of the Democratic Republic of Congo Joseph Kabila called for the repatriation of the items. …

The museum was founded by King Leopold II to house items collected in the Congo Free State during Belgian rule, including beheaded skulls of tribal chiefs and stuffed animals slaughtered by hunters.

Translated from Dutch NOS TV today:

United Nations criticize ‘racist images’ in the reopened Belgian Africamuseum

An anti-racism working group of the United Nations has criticized the Africamuseum in Tervuren, near Brussels. The museum was recently reopened after a thorough renovation, which was decided after a public debate about the glorification of colonization in the museum.

The museum removed statues of King Leopold II and placed signs with additional explanations at controversial texts. However, the changes do not go far enough for the UN.

Belgian Congo was a colony of Belgium between 1908 and 1960. Since 1885, the country had already been a private colony of the Belgian king Leopold II. The country is now called Congo-Kinshasa.

The colonization period is a black page in Belgian history. Under the Belgian administration, millions of people died and the local population was exploited.

The Africa experts working group visited Belgium last week and presented its conclusions in a press release yesterday. According to the experts, the Africamuseum is the most visible post-colonial expression in Belgium. The museum must remove all “racist and offensive” images, they think.

“The Working Group is of the view that the reorganization of the museum has not gone far enough”, says the report. “The reorganization falls short of its goal of providing adequate context and critical analysis. The Working Group notes the importance of removing all colonial propaganda and accurately presenting the atrocities of Belgium’s colonial past.”

The working group also does not like the many statues of Leopold II and his colonial army in the Belgian street scene. The contributions of people with African roots to Belgian society must become more visible, according to the UN group. They also demand that the Belgian government apologize for this period in Belgian history.

The UN working group falls under the office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR). In 2013, the working group did research on Zwarte Piet [blackface Saint Nicholas holiday character] in the Netherlands. Two years later the UN advised the Dutch government to change the tradition.

In Belgian media, Minister of Development Cooperation Alexander De Croo responded surprisedly to the report.

In this 8 December 2018 Dutch language video, Kenyan Belgian Stella Nyanchama Okemwa visits the reopened museum. She notes there is a plaque in the museum commemorating Belgians who died in Congo, but that nothing there commemorates the very many more Congolese who died violent deaths because of colonialism. She also notes sculpture, depicting Africans as small children next to big Belgian Catholic missionaries.

1 thought on “‘Belgian Africa Museum still neocolonialist’

  1. Pingback: Belgian government apology for stealing African children | Dear Kitty. Some blog

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