WILL BELGIUM HEAR THE CALL FOR RESTITUTION OF LOOTED AFRICAN ARTEFACTS? ARE WESTERN MUSEUMS THE LAST BASTIONS OF COLONIALISM AND IMPERIALISM?
Where does the museum stand in relation to colonisation?
The principle of colonisation as a system of governance is fundamentally immoral and we completely distance ourselves from it. Royal Museum for Central Africa (1)
Africa Museum, formerly Royal Museum for Central Africa, Tervuren, Belgium.
As readers know by now, there are in many European countries, especially in the former colonial powers that dominated the countries of Africa for uncounted decades, Great Britain, Germany, France, and Netherlands discussions on the question of the restitution of looted African artefacts. The colonial masters who were to bring us civilization, according to their own accounts, looted not only mineral resources-gold, bauxite, diamonds-timber and took away human beings for slavery, but also stole uncountable quantities of African artefacts that now decorate many private European homes and are boldly displayed, without shame or fear, in the major museums in London, and Amsterdam, Berlin, Brussel, Leiden, Paris, and Vienna. One country that seems to be left out in the current restitution debates seems to be Belgium. This is surprising considering that under the Belgian king, Leopold II, the Congo which was run like a private company of the king, Africa experienced one of the cruellest colonial regimes (and colonial regimes are by definition racist oppressive systems operated by Europeans against Africans). The atrocities of the Belgian king have been well narrated by Adam Hochschild in his King Leopold’s Ghost. (2) That nefarious regime also stole thousands of African artefacts and human remains from the Congo. Now an international group of intellectuals and activists, including many persons from the African diaspora, have signed an open petition on 25 September,2018, to the Belgian government and authorities requesting the restitution of looted artefacts and the return human remains to the Congo. (3) Most of the stolen/looted artefacts from the Congo are kept in the Royal Museum for Central Africa in Tervuren (4)
A giant golden statue of a European missionary with an African boy clutching his robes is seen at the Royal Museum for Central Africa in Tervuren, near Brussels, January 22, 2014. Francois Lenoir/File Photo. A plaque reads ‘Belgium bringing civilization to Congo
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