5 of the Best African museums to visit immediately in 2022Aug 06, 2022 03:00PM ● By Anand Subramanian
Coming to Africa may be much more than a holiday for Black people worldwide. Many consider it a pilgrimage, a return to the homeland of their forefathers. Therefore, the usual trappings of a typical vacation may not suffice for their travel because visiting the African continent one would experience the arts, literature, and history in ways other holiday destinations will not provide.
Museums of all kinds serve as collectors and aggregators of legacy, and they are as numerous and varied as the continent's various civilizations. For those wishing to add a little extra culture to their journey to Africa, here are five prominent museums that Black visitors, in particular, would enjoy in 2022.
Kigali Genocide Memorial, Kigali, Rwanda
This monument was created expressly to remember the victims of Rwanda's Tutsi genocide in 1994. Because their city, Kigali, is virtually in the middle of the nation, it is in a perfect situation to serve as a site for survivors to commemorate and pay tribute to their loved ones.
The displays are divided into three sections, starting with the biggest, which exhaustively depicts the crimes of the Tutsi genocide in 1994. Beginning with the pre-colonial history of what is now known as Rwanda, it walks viewers through the deliberate nature of the Rwandan genocide and extols the opposition's triumphs. Further within the museum, you'll discover the Children's Room, devoted to the memory and a few surviving tales of the newborns and children who died during this tragic chapter in Rwandan history.
A significant motive for the memorial's conception and construction was to provide a suitable burial spot for those who were slain. The resulting human remains were callously tossed into mass graves or left in the open to decade during and after the genocide. Still, a great effort was started to collect and reinter these people's desecrated remains as part of the monument. Today, a significant component of the memorial's mission is to serve as a proper burial location for persons whose corpses were desecrated after death and to provide visitors with a venerated spot to pay their respects.
The memorial's goal includes educating visitors about the factors that led to the Rwandan Genocide as well as its ramifications. They want to prevent future generations from replicating these crimes by incorporating corollaries to other comparable historical actions, such as the Cambodian Killing Fields or the Holocaust.
Though it is not a large monument, allow more time than you think you will need for your visit. On their first visit, many visitors require additional time to think about what occurred in 1994 since few outsides of Rwanda have been privy to this history in such a comprehensive fashion.
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The Museum of Contemporary African Art Al Maaden, Marrakech, Morocco
The Museum of Contemporary African Art Al Maaden (MACAAL) in Marrakech, which delicately navigates its unique location to emphasize both Middle Eastern/North African art and Sub-Saharan African art, holds a permanent collection and rotating exhibits that help in exploring this confluence. This museum, housed in a beautiful neo-Moorish tower, is very new, having opened in 2018.
Its displays demonstrate a strong appreciation for work from various genres since it is just as likely to feature a painting as an experimental digital media piece. The offers also seem to reflect a desire to exhibit work from a diverse spectrum of expertise since you will likely encounter work from formally educated and self-taught artists. Overall, the experience more accurately portrays the layperson's view of African artworks and the African artist's interaction with the often-disconnected African art market.
In addition to the exhibition space, MACAAL has made a special commitment to arts education, as seen by its offers in terms of training and residency. Its most ambitious offering was a four-day boot camp for budding African talent in the arts. In collaboration with A Million Dots, 20 young professionals were invited to the MACAAL campus in January 2020 to participate in training and workshops taught by some of Africa's greats, including Marie-Cécile as mentioned earlier, Zinsou, founder of the Zinsou Foundation in Ouidah, and Koyo Kouoh, director and chief curator at the Zeitz MOCAA in Cape Town.
Maison des Esclaves, Dakar, Senegal
Though there is considerable disagreement over the site's real significance in the trans-Atlantic slave trade, La Maison des Esclaves — or the House of Slaves — remains one of the world's leading monuments to the miseries of chattel slavery. The Entrance of No Return is located on Gorée Island, approximately three kilometers off the coast of Dakar. It is the door through which abducted Africans were marched to board the vessels that would carry them to the Americas to be enslaved.
It was so called because, although escaping from a slave house was very rare, it was impossible after passing through the door, and it was the last time Africans marched through it to see their motherland for the rest of their lives. Only death would rescue them from their destiny across the Atlantic when they passed through the Door of No Return.
Whether or not this Gorée Island facility was a significant factor in the trans-Atlantic slave traffic, it is sure that it was an active holding site for Africans awaiting their voyage over the ocean at some time. To most Africans, particularly those from the African diaspora returning from the Americas, the difference seems trivial, if not irrelevant – the importance of the lessons gained at the museum remains just as precise.
The House of Slaves has drawn a fair number of international leaders. Among its noteworthy guests are Pope John Paul II, Barack Obama, and Nelson Mandela, who allegedly left the tour to sit alone in one of the basement cells for a while. Though many speculated on what he was meditating on quietly for those few minutes, he never felt the need to disclose it.
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Le Musée Fondation Zinsou, Ouidah, Benin
In 2005, the Zinsou Foundation was established to encourage African art in Benin. Though its offices are in Cotonou, which maintains a small display room, the Ouidah museum is a far more extensive project. It houses the foundation's permanent modern African art collection housed in a renovated mansion.
Since its inception in 2013, the museum has achieved significant progress in its quest to conserve Africa's creative history. Though the collection started with items contributed by the Zinsou family from their collections, it has since expanded significantly and includes work in various genres. The museum has the usual trappings of private groups, such as photography, painting, and sketching, and 3D art, such as sculpture and installation. More ephemeral media will also be used as the focal point of events and exhibits.
The charity was founded by Marie-Cécile Zinsou, the French-Beninese daughter of former Beninese Prime Minister Lionel Zinsou and the granddaughter of Émile Derlin Zinsou. She briefly served as president of independent Dahomey after a military coup in 1967. "I believe I have a sense of obligation; I think that's a feeling you get when you come from a political family," Marie-Cécile said of her choice to form the group. You have a responsibility to your nation. After two years of working with children at an orphanage, I felt compelled to do something, and I reasoned that my contribution might be tied to education. That's how we got the museum, and the libraries started."
Admission to the museum, exhibition space, and attendance to any workshops or activities is always free as part of Marie Cécile's for the museum and the more extensive foundation to serve as the backbone for comprehensive arts education programs.
L’Aventure du Sucre, Pamplemousses, Mauritius
Though sugar is cheap and abundant, it was previously a product so valuable in commerce that its worth was comparable to gold or silk. Sugar has long been a profitable crop in Mauritius, and it is still grown there today, accounting for around 85 percent of the country's arable area. The Dutch were the first colonists to profit from the sugar cane economy in Mauritius in the 17th century, but the French made it a global issue. They successfully legitimized the Mauritian sugar trade worldwide by investing in infrastructure and building the country's first sophisticated sugar mills.
L'Aventure du Sucre is a museum in a former sugar refining factory devoted to the convoluted colonial history of Mauritius' sugar industry. The museum is located inside the Beau Plan Sugar Estate, at the end of a long avenue surrounded by coconut trees and bougainvillea, opposite the factory. The attractions inside the large and industrial interior soften the vast and industrial interior somewhat: the lights and screens of the multimedia exhibitions form the backbone of a thorough tour.
The museum is also close to the Pamplemousses Botanical Gardens, a 300-year-old attraction with fantastic flora and animals. Tortoises and java deer may be seen, as well as the always stunning large pads of Victoria water lilies that bloom in the park's various ponds. If you're in the neighborhood, don't miss out on the gardens.
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Anand Subramanian is a freelance photographer and content writer based out of Tamil Nadu, India. Having a background in Engineering always made him curious about life on the other side of the spectrum. He leapt forward towards the Photography life and never looked back. Specializing in Documentary and Portrait photography gave him an up-close and personal view into the complexities of human beings and those experiences helped him branch out from visual to words. Today he is mentoring passionate photographers and writing about the different dimensions of the art world.
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