Boubacar Diallo, Head of Collection and Inventory Department at the National Museum of Guinea, on decolonizing the Museum in Africa
What is the future of the museum in Africa? Knowing where we come from allows us to project ourselves into the future. In 1992, the former Malian President Alpha Oumar Konaré, then president of the International Council of Museums (ICOM), said that: “[…], we must kill, I say kill, the Western model of museums in Africa […] ”. Since this famous speech by President Alpha Oumar Konaré, many museum initiatives have been implemented. I especially want to mention the MSD program (Museums at the Service of Development) designed and implemented by the African heritage school EPA based in Benin.
I took this example because it is one of the programmes that has enabled several museums in French-speaking African countries to renew their permanent exhibitions, including the National Museum of Guinea where I work, and to connect them with the public, schoolchildren, and young people in the hope of seeing them return and become loyal visitors. Did it pay off? This question remains because museums still do not attract and interest many of the communities concerned.
“The future African museum will be connected with local communities through participatory and collaborative projects… a place of consultation, cooperation, innovation and interaction”
Today, African museum professionals still have questions about an African model of museums. What often comes up is to decolonize our museums — that the future African museum will be a decolonized museum. But what is a decolonized museum in Africa?
Recently, thanks to the MuseumsFutures Africa project designed and implemented by the Goethe-Institut in six museums on the continent, including our own, we are on the way to finding answers to this question. The reflections that we lead, based on our own local realities, lead us to see that the future African museum will be a museum connected with local communities through participatory and collaborative projects. The future museum will be a place of consultation, cooperation, innovation and interaction with all majority and minority elements of the community.
The future museum will be a place where we not only jointly develop projects for the collection, acquisition works of art, preserve works of art, value intangible heritage, but also co-design and set-up exhibitions.
I would like to add that our future museum will be hyper connected. It will use new technologies to interact with audiences who are becoming more and more virtual, in particular young people. It will be a virtual place of consultation for innovation and positive change, of information exchange and discussion between professionals and local communities, and of awareness of the evils and defects that beset our societies of today and tomorrow. It will be a platform for exchanges and debates on the future challenges of the African continent and of the constantly changing world.
Our future museum will be built on the basis of diversity, consultation, and the defence of the rights and interests of all parts of local society.
Boubacar Diallo, Head of Collection and Inventory Department, National Museum of Guinea
This short essay is part of the FutureMuseum Project. Museum workers based in 18 countries — including Nigeria, Guinea, Botswana, South Africa, Argentina, Colombia, Singapore, New Zealand, Denmark, and Norway — have already contributed their ideas to this ongoing free-to-access project.