Ghanaian art historian, filmmaker and writer, Nana Oforiatta Ayim, has suggested that 2021 might be the year of the ‘African Museum’. As museums and cultural institutions of former colonisers grapple with their colonial pasts and the valuable artefacts taken from the colonies, Ayim writes that many museums on the African continent are “co-curating with communities around them and creating more expansive models” to reclaim their histories.
Here we explore three African museums – two of which are still in the pipeline – that are worth knowing about.
House of Slaves – Senegal
The House of Slaves Museum is located off the coast of Senegal on the island of Goreë and was built in 1776 by the Dutch. Between the 15th and 19th centuries, the island was the “largest slave-trading centre on the African coast” and was colonised by the Portuguese, Dutch, English, and French. The colourful houses that characterise the island belonged to the slave merchants and enslaved people from all across Africa would remain chained at the ankles for up to three months before slave ships came to fetch them. It is estimated that over 12.5 million men, women, and children were enslaved during this time and sent to the Americas.
This museum strives to be a “sanctuary for reconciliation” and remind us of the horrors of slavery and the brutal histories of colonisation. Of the island and the house, the curator of the museum, Eloi Coly states:
“The 900 meter-long island used to host around 28 slave houses. Today most have disappeared and turned into private houses… one was chosen by the Senegalese state to keep the memory and remind all the people about the fragility of the liberties… It’s a place of memory and reconciliation.”
Pan African Heritage World Museum – Ghana 2022
The catchphrase “our own history shapes our future” encapsulates this impressive project which will be ready by 2022. Ultimately, the museum wants to tell “the true story of Africa and its people.” This unique space will strive to”create an environment for people of African descent and all others to discover and experience the true history of the Origins of Humanity.”
A number of fascinating exhibitions will be on display, including a sculpture garden of African heroes, a herbal plant farm, and replicas of famous African kingdoms across the continent. Explore their exciting plans here.
Ngaren Museum of Humankind – Kenya 2024
This ambitious project is set to be ready by 2024 and will showcase “over two million years of human history in a building inspired by the forms of ancient hand axes and other primitive tools.” The museum is the brainchild of paleoanthropologist, Dr Richard Leakey, who discovered the Turkana Boy skeleton in 1984. This skeleton is estimated to be 1.6 million years old and is the most complete of the earliest skeletons that have been found. On this project, Leakey has shared:
“Ngaren is not just another museum, but a call to action… As we peer back through the fossil record, through layer upon layer of long extinct species, many of which thrived far longer that the human species is ever likely to do, we are reminded of our mortality as a species.”
The above is just a mere snapshot of a growing number of fascinating museums and cultural institutions developing across the African continent. Watch this space to learn more…