New publication: 'The Grand Rotunda of the Royal Museum for Central Africa - RE/STORE'

Aimé Mpane and Jean Pierre Muller (éd.)

This richly illustrated book is a compilation of texts written by renowned experts about the history of the rotunda and its statues, as well as the semantic and artistic analysis of RE/STORE, providing a full catalogue of the installations, sculptures, and veils.


The Royal Museum for Central Africa was founded in 1898, but its current building was inaugurated in 1910 and is characterised by many symbols reflecting the colonial propaganda of the time. The grand rotunda, designed to serve as the museum entrance, plays host to a series of statues that are strong examples of such imagery, reflecting fundamentally racist stereotypes.

Between 2013 and 2018, the RMCA underwent a major renovation that saw a substantial redesign of the permanent exhibition, with the involvement of members of the African diaspora in Belgium. A major challenge of the renovation was to demonstrate the will to decolonise a listed building that is legally protected against changes. As removal of the colonial statues was not allowed, the museum was forced to find innovative solutions, notably by inviting contemporary African artists to create installations to dialogue, contrast, and discuss with colonial messages.

Congolese artist Aimé Mpane was chosen to make such an installation in the rotunda in 2018 with New breath, or Burgeoning Congo. Public reaction helped the AfricaMuseum realise that it needed to go further. Along with the creation of a second sculpture, Aimé Mpane, in co-creation with Belgian artist Jean Pierre Müller, proposed the RE/STORE project: a permanent installation of transparent veils, each bearing a contemporary message, hung in front of every statue in the rotunda. The themes addressed in this collection of veils interact with the viewer in a powerful and eloquent manner.

Introduction: Weighty sculptures at a museum burdened by the past, by Bruno Verbergt 
Cupolas, collections, colonies: expansionism around 1900, by Michel Uytterhoeven 
The grand rotunda and its sculptures: 1910 to the present, by Mary Jo Arnoldi 
Layers of memory, by Elaine Ericksen Sullivan 
Illuminating profanations: looking through the veil, by Nefeli Forni 
Etymology of representation, by Aimé Mpane 
Joint interview of Aimé Mpane and Jean Pierre Müller, by M.-F. Dubois 
Palimpsest, by Abderrahmane Djelfaoui 
Family photographs, by Lisette Lombé 
RE/STORE, by Roland Baumann, Debora Silverman, Christine Bluard and Jean Pierre Müller 

More info
La Grande Rotonde du Musée royal de l’Afrique centrale. RE/STORE
Aimé Mpane and Jean Pierre Muller (éd.)
Publication MRAC & BAI
39,5 € - 184 pages
ISBN : 978-9-08-586-837