The Royal Museum for Central Africa

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Leuvensesteenweg 13, Brussels, Belgium - +32 (0)2 769 52 46 00

The Royal Museum for Central Africa Brussels Reviews

andrejav andrejav
751 reviews
The Royal Museum for Central Africa Aug 06, 2013
The Royal Museum for Central Africa was a place we accidentally found on our travels around Brussels. It is museum devoted to Central African traditions, ways of life and customs. Museum building is beautiful old building surrounded with huge park with well designed gardens, interesting statues and cool ponds. Collections that are presented in the museum are very unique, interesting and explanations are good and interesting. Only problem I have with this exhibit is that most of the items were probably stolen or taken from the African tribes during the cruel Belgian rule of Central Africa.

Museum is well worth seeing.
davidx says:
Fascinating review. Certainly the colonial history of this part of Africa was particularly grim
Posted on: Aug 06, 2013
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Adrian_Liston Adrian_L…
156 reviews
A colonial museum of the Congo May 23, 2010
The Royal Museum for Central Africa is set within a magnificent neoclassical building and sprawling French gardens.

The museum has a very dark history, being built as a public relations stunt by King Leopold II for his 1897 World Exhibition. He used these displays to demonstrate the "benefit" he was bringing to his colony in the Congo, complete with a replica African village outside the museum (hundreds of Congolese died to keep the village populated during the Exhibition).

Today, most of the racist past has been removed, with a more contemporary ethnographic exhibit of African culture using the stolen artefacts. The past is only revealed through a few statues vilifying the African savage and glorifying the Belgian colonial master. Even with the propaganda display of Leopold II mostly removed, very little of the museum deals with the absolute horror of Leopold's reign of genocide over the Congo.

The museum is very friendly to the casual visitor, with the millions of items largely hidden away (it is the largest African collection in the world), leaving just a few rooms exhibiting the most spectacular or insightful artefacts. One of the most interesting displays was of a bull elephant, complete with a video of it being shot in the wild, stuffed and transported to Belgium. The collection of African masks was also extremely interesting, and the comment that the masks once included a full costume and background and were used for particular ceremonies, struck me as being very similar to the Belgian festival tradition.

Few signs are in English, but the audio guide includes an interesting commentary of around an hour on the star exhibits.
Andy99 says:
It would be interesting to study the connections between the African masks and costumes and the masks and costumes of Junkanoo in the Bahamas and Carnival in Trinidad and New Orleans.
Posted on: May 24, 2010

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