Senegal: the museum of black civilizations soon in orbit Promised at the inauguration on December 6, the Museum of Black Civilizations in Dakar will finally open. It should contain works already on site, but also works returned.

      Comments Off on Senegal: the museum of black civilizations soon in orbit Promised at the inauguration on December 6, the Museum of Black Civilizations in Dakar will finally open. It should contain works already on site, but also works returned.

Postponed since the first quarter of 2017, the inauguration of the Museum of Black Civilizations (MCN) will take place soon. Finally. "We will be ready for December 6," Hamady Bocoum, CMN's Executive Director, told reporters on the occasion of the museum's presentation. "The work is progressing very well," in his words. President Macky Sall will be able to inaugurate it with, by his side, an "African president and a European president, perhaps others," said Senegalese Minister of Culture, Abdou Latif Coulibaly, without revealing names.

Not a museum of subaltern Africa

"African civilizations: continuous creation of humanity", this is the theme of the exhibition that will be unveiled on December 6 in the 24,000 square meters of space of the museum. On two levels, visitors will travel from the Neolithic to the multiplicity of African cultures, through the Iron Age, to understand the contributions of Africa to the scientific and technical heritage. The director of the museum boasts a modern scenography, with the latest technologies, to dialogue paintings, sculptures, masks and some masterpieces, as a piece of one of the major figures of the plastic arts of Mali, Abdoulaye Konaté, and a monumental baobab of 112 meters high made by a Haitian representative of the diaspora.

  © DANIEL LEAL - OLIVAS
Abdoulaye Konaté draws from his textile sculptures an inexhaustible material in which he inscribes the signs and symbols of the secret societies of Mali ("Tribute to hunters of Mandé" – 1994) or reveals a reading of the world and its events ("Bosnia, Rwanda, Angola – 1995).
© DANIEL LEAL – OLIVAS

The purpose of the museum is clear: to give African culture its place in the 21st century. "This museum will not look like any other, because it will not be a museum of sub-Saharan Africa," said Hamady Bocoum, a hint of emotion in his voice. With unrestrained enthusiasm, he already dreams of "this pan-African project" as "a jewel of Senegal". "It will be proof that the African man is well in history," he exclaimed, referring to the polemic sentence pronounced by Nicolas Sarkozy in 2009 in Dakar.

Works restored?

Like a snub, the museum could contain works owned by France since colonization. "We want to find all the works that come from Senegal and that France will lend us," said Abdou Latif Coulibaly, "We have there [en France, NDLR]we do not know the number, but if there are 10,000, we want 10,000, "he insisted.

The publication of the report commissioned by Emmanuel Macron to the historian Bénédicte Savoy and to the economist Felwine Sarr brought to the heart of the news the thorny question of the restitution of African works held by France since colonization. This report advocates the "permanent restitution" of African heritage. But the minister assured to be "willing to accept the conditions of France", regardless of the form, "loan or deposit".

Anyway, according to Hamady Bocoum, the director general of the CMN, the museum does not lack artistic pieces: "We already have many pieces now, and everything will not be exposed at once. "

Senegalese project, Chinese financing

If this project is "pan-African", it is also very Chinese. The orientation signs of the entrance set the scene. Above words in French, the Chinese translation dominates. In fact, this imposing circular building located in the city center of Dakar was financed by China, to the tune of 20 billion CFA francs, or 30.5 million euros.

  © AFP archives

© AFP archives

If the idea is not Eastern, it is the Middle Kingdom that has made it possible to realize it, after many twists and turns. Léopold Sédar Senghor dreamed of it already in 1966, after the first World Festival of Negro Arts organized in Senegal. It was under the Wade presidency that the first stone was laid in December 2011, but the works were suspended during the political alternation. Macky Sall finally revives the machine and the project goes out of the ground between December 2013 and December 2015. Since then, he was waiting for its content. On Tuesday, the only visible room was still empty. More than a week to complete everything, the count is launched until the inauguration, "the most important cultural event since 1966," in the words of the director.