Kinshasa launches a project on the return of its heritage
Congolese President Antoine-Félix Tshisekedi Tshilombo announced Friday in Kinshasa the creation of a commission “on the repatriation of Congolese cultural heritage“having left the country at the time of Belgian colonization, the report of the Council of Ministers indicates on Saturday.
“Building on the theme of his mandate at (the presidency of) the African Union entitled Art, culture and heritage: levers to build the Africa we want“, Antoine-Félix Tshisekedi underlined during this council”the opportunity to address the issue of recovering our heritage, in particular with the Royal Museum for Central Africa in Tervuren“, specifies the report. This museum, located near Brussels, conceals a”large and invaluable quantity of our finest works“, adds the text.
“Welcoming the cooperation of the Belgian authorities, he insisted on the need to see this repatriation process free from all passion and be part of a new cultural policy based on mutual respect.“, Further indicates the report read by the Minister of Communication and Media, Patrick Muyaya Katembwe, who is also spokesperson for the government of Kinshasa.
To achieve this, he said, the president “asked the Prime Minister (Jean-Michel Sama Lukonde, editor’s note) to create a national commission of common policy on the repatriation of Congolese cultural heritage“, which should include ministries, experts, scientists, traditional leaders, traditional authorities, monarchs, etc.
The origin of the Tervuren museum, formerly known as “Congo museum“then from Central Africa and now called”AfricaMuseum“, dates back to the Universal Exhibition of Brussels in 1897, indicates the museum on its website.
Its collections were formed largely during the colonial period, specifies the museum, which says border the question of a possible restitution with “an open and constructive mindHe recalls in particular having included between 1976 and 1982, 114 ethnographic objects at the Institute of National Museums of Zaire (former name of the Democratic Republic of the Congo) in Kinshasa.
King Leopold II had made the Congo his personal property between 1885 and 1908, before the country became a Belgian colony, until its independence on June 30, 1960.
The announcement made in Kinshasa comes a few days before a visit to the DRC by the Minister for Development Cooperation, Meryame Kitir, and the Secretary of State for Science Policy, Thomas Dermine.
Thomas Dermine’s trip will focus on the theme of “strengthening of cultural and scientific collaborations“, against the backdrop of preparations for the return of property resulting from colonization. He will be accompanied in particular by the director general of the AfricaMuseum, Guido Gryseels.
The Belgian government launched at the beginning of July a vast project to study the provenance of goods resulting from colonization. A framework has been set for the return of property to the former colonies (the former Belgian Congo, but also Burundi and Rwanda, under Belgian mandate from 1923 to their independence in 1962) which, in the years to come, could target thousands of objects and make Belgium a pioneer in this field.
Most of these assets are in the AfricaMuseum, a federal institution. Some 128,000 objects are listed, 85% coming from the DRC, the vast majority of which are objects of daily life. The museum opened at 1% the part resulting from looting, at 58% the appropriate part correctly, the rest to be the subject of a front – signed – study of provenance (2.5 million euros according to Mr. Gryseels).