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Periodical article Periodical article Leiden University catalogue Leiden University catalogue WorldCat catalogue WorldCat
Title:The ghost of Leopold II: the Belgian Royal Museum of Central Africa and its dusty colonialist exhibition
Author:Rahier, Jean MutebaISNI
Periodical:Research in African Literatures
Geographic terms:Congo (Democratic Republic of)
colonial history
Abstract:The author presents a critical reading of the permanent exposition of the Royal Museum of Central Africa (RMCA) at Tervuren, a suburb of Brussels (Belgium), based on his visits to the museum in the period 1999-2001. The Belgian king Leopold II founded the museum at the very end of the 19th century as an ideological tool aimed at countering the growing criticism that (the brutal and bloody repression performed by his subordinates in the Congo was drawing internationally. The colonial museum also was to 'educate' the Belgian public as to who they really were in contradistinction to the uncivilized Congolese 'tribes'. This propaganda message is still there, displayed without subtlety. Through a critical ethnographic reading of the exhibition rooms, the author examines various reasons for the fact that, unlike many similar museums in the Western world, the RMCA's permanent exhibition reproduces the typical European narrative of national history and national/imperial identity in terms of white supremacy and scientific racism. The first factor has to do with the very organization of the museum. Another factor is the historical conservatism of some of the museum's section heads. Bibliogr., notes, ref. [ASC Leiden abstract]