125/5 Jahre

What role does the museum play?

In 2023, the Royal Museum for Central Africa (AfricaMuseum) is turning 125 years old. It has also been 5 years since the museum reopened its doors after a renovation. The institution has thus chosen this year to organize activities focusing on the museum’s role in the past, present and future.

The history of the AfricaMuseum began with the 1897 World Expo in Brussels. At that time, Congo was still the personal property of King Leopold II. He decided to host the colonial section of the World Expo in Tervuren. More than 200 Congolese were exhibited in mock villages and seven of them died. 

In 1898, the Colonial Exhibition was converted to a permanent museum of Congo. The institution was both a museum and a scientific institute from the very start. 

After a five-year renovation, the museum reopened in December 2018. Since then, the debate on Belgian colonization in Central Africa (Congo, Rwanda and Burundi) and the handling of this past has gained momentum. We need only mention the series ‘Children of the Colony’ and ‘Metises of Belgium’ on Flemish television, the regrets expressed by King Philippe and the work of the special parliamentary commission. 

Societal attitudes have also changed dramatically in recent years, from the Black Lives Matter demonstrations to the ceremony for Patrice Lumumba, not to mention the passing of a Belgian law following European-level discussions on the restitution of African cultural heritage.

Exactly 125 years after the creation of the museum and five years after its reopening, the ‘125/5 years’ project is being launched. With this project, the AfricaMuseum wants to take a critical look at colonial history and discuss the institution’s evolution. What role did the museum play in the past? What is it doing today? What role will it fill in the future?

From May to December 2023, various activities will be organised at the AfricaMuseum and other locations in Flanders, Brussels and Wallonia. This will be done in collaboration with partners, including African diaspora organisations in particular.