Decolonizing the Africa Museum in Tervuren

27 ma
27 mei 2019
SPUI25, Amsterdam

How to decolonize a colonial museum? The reopening of the Africamuseum in Tervuren (Brussels) – founded by Leopold II – became the object of fierce debate. Anthropologist Bambi Ceuppens, the commissioner of the Museum’s renovation, was at the center. (Ex-)colonials wanted more respect for Belgium’s colonial heritage, others found the decolonizing half-hearted. Ceuppens will discuss problems and possible solutions.

The reopening of the Africamuseum Tervuren (Brussels) last year led to fierce debates. For decades the museum – founded by King Leopold II (1908) and world-famous for its collection of Congolese objects – had become severely contested because of its marked colonial profile. The main issue for the renovation was therefore whether it should be ‘decolonized’ and how this could be realized. Dr. Bambi Ceuppens, senior researcher at the Museum and commissioner for the renovation was at the center of this debate. Criticisms came from all sides, from (ex-) colonials who still cherish Belgium’s colonial heritage, from others who wanted to maintain the museum rather as a memorial to the colonial horrors, and by people who thought the decolonizing did not go far enough. Bambi Ceuppens will discuss the problems and the solutions that were tried out. The discussants will compare with the thorny path of decolonizing in the Netherlands.

About the speakers

Bambi Ceuppens studied anthropology. She is curator and senior researcher at the Africamuseum Tervuren. Over the lasttwo tears she served as commissioner for the reopening of this Museum. Her research and the exosition she curated conern the Belgian colonial past, and issues of autochthony and citizenship

Mitchell Esajas studied Business Studies and Anthropology. He is chairman of New Urban Collective, a network for young professionals with a focus on the Surinamese, Caribbean and African diaspora. He co-founded the Black Archives in Amsterdam for the history of black people and black resistance in the Dutch context.

Markus Balkenhol is an anthropologist at the Meertens Institute who has done fieldwork in Suriname and the Netherlands. He works on issues of colonialism, race, citizenship, cultural heritage, and religion. He has published in Social Anthropology, African Diaspora, and Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies. Francio Guadeloupe teaches anthropology at the University of Amsterdam. He served for four years as the President of the University of St. Martin (Dutch West Indies). His research focuses on popular understandings of national belonging, cultural diversity, and the impact of colonial racisms and global capital.

Peter Geschiere is emeritus professor for the anthropology of Africa (University of Amsterdam and Leiden University). He did field-work in Cameroon and elsewhere in Africa. He taught also in SAfrica and USA. His research concerns issues of citizenship and belonging, witchcraft and politics, Freemasonry and homophobia.


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