Five years after closing its doors for the first big facelift of its history, the Africa Museum of Tervuren becomes to breathe. The reform has been long and costly -66 million euros, but Belgium presents from this Sunday to the visitor, the result of their efforts to provide the largest collection on Africa of the planet than a more critical look about your role as a colonial power.

In that time, its director, Guido Gryssels, of 66 years, he has worked with experts and representatives of the african community to reformulate the exhibition, the heir to many a vision outmoded of the story. The result is visible. Some of the most controversial have come out of the permanent exhibition. The statue of the man leopard ready to attack a victim, the paradigm of the myth of the african savage and primitive, has been sent to the repository of sculptures from the subsoil. It has also lost preponderance, king Leopold II, the man who reigned as the absolute monarch of the Congo from 1885 to 1908, leaving millions of victims by the hard work of removing the rubber. And have added the works of artists of african, contemporary and critical texts with colonialism. “For years we have presented the image that the western culture is superior to that of Africa. We wanted to decolonize the museum,” says Gryssels.


A square from oblivion in Belgium for the liberator of the Congo Belgium opens a slit to the recognition of the leaders of the independence of Congo

The colonial past has become the material highly flammable in Belgium. The appropriateness of maintaining streets and public squares statues to extol Leopold II reappears regularly in the public debate. And after years of invisibility, the first square in honor of the hero of independence of the congolese Patrice Lumumba was inaugurated five months ago in Cratosslot Brussels. The museum tries to be the last link in a chain of gestures. “Until the lions have their own historians, tales of hunting will glorify the hunter” can be read in one of his inscriptions.

The african proverb sums up the spirit with which the community has been involved in the reform. In a country where they live, some 250,000 african, mostly congolese, the representatives of the diaspora believe that the renewal is still half done, and claim a place in the direction of the museum to africanizar your vision.

Among the most critical voices, there are those who demand their dismantlement and the return of the 120,000 pieces, moved for decades by missionaries, soldiers and scientists. The congolese Government does not go so far, but while preparing his own museum in Kinshasa, has announced that he will ask the restitution of part of the material stolen.

the history of The place does not contribute to lowering the animosity of a part of the african community. In the area where it is located the museum were installed in 1897 several villages that led to 267 congolese to be observed a sort of human zoo. Seven of them were not able to resist the cold belgian winter and died of the flu.

For generations, entering the imposing neo-classical palace and bump into the elephant shot for the universal exhibition of 1958, the long canoe of 3,500 kilos with a capacity for 100 passengers, masks, or crocodiles, it has been for many belgians their first contact with Africa and the so-called “civilizing mission” of their country. This narrative seems destined now to be buried in the time. The ghosts of the colonial past are ever more present. And come to the plane of the symbolic. The king Philip of Belgium will open the museum as planned to avoid suspicion.