port of harlem magazine
national black theater festival
Senegal Opens New Museum That Rivals DC’s Black History Museum
December 6 – December 18, 2018
new senegelese museum

The new Musée des Civilisations Noires (Museum of Black Civilizations) in Dakar, Senegal says its size puts it in league with the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, DC.

The Dakar museum has 150,000 square feet of floor space. The Washington museum has 85,000 square feet of exhibition space. (At press time, Port Of Harlem could not ascertain if the Dakar museum’s 150,000 square foot floor space equates to exhibition space.)

The Musée des Civilisations Noires’s (MCN) orientation is pan-African. The museum presents the diaspora communities, such as in Brazil, the United States and the Caribbean, as African civilizations in their own right. Architects modeled the museum's disc-like shape on the rounded walls of the Medieval city of Great Zimbabwe.

China is the main funder of the project. The state-owned Beijing Institute of Architectural Design created the colossal $30 million, four-story building.

“It looks amazing,” says Ruth Bridges of Aviva Travel Group. Aviva is planning a three-country tour of Africa including Senegal, South Africa, and Zambia. They leave for Africa March 14 from Washington Dulles airport.

The museum’s opening coincides with renewed calls of Europeans to return items stolen during the colonial period. And, ironically, while many Europeans fear that illegal immigrants from their former colonies are “taking over” their countries.

Embattled French President Emmanuel Macron recently announced that his country will return 26 artifacts taken from Benin in 1892, thrones and statues, currently on display at the Quai Branly museum in Paris. The French took the items during a colonial war against the then Kingdom of Dahomey.

Former Senegalese president Léopold Sédar Senghor proposed the museum 52 years ago. The current President Macky Sall said during the opening, "Keeping our cultures is what has saved African people from attempts made at making of them soulless people without a history. And if culture does link people together, it also stimulates progress."

Echoing Sall’s comments, Bridges added, “We love to travel and have been able to enjoy Paris, France; Rome, Italy; Beijing, China; Australia, New Zealand; and many other wonderful places. But the vacation that alters our sense of ourselves and our history is this trip to Africa. People who have taken this trip with me describe it as unforgettable and the new museum will heighten the experience.”
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