It has long been a fundamental, though false, assertion in Western Civilization’s version of history, science, philosophy and general knowledge that Africa was the place of darkness out of which nothing substantial came. After all, said several noted academicians, ‘There was no such thing as African history before European colonization of the continent. Thus, African history began only when Europeans arrived and brought Africa light.’
Because of such arrogance, there has thus been a long and continuous fight for cultural and historical relevance waged by thousands, even millions, of Africans. During 2016-2018, there were some major milestones in this battle, with the opening of the National African American Museum on the Washington Mall in D.C., the Museum of Contemporary Art Africa in Cape Town, South Africa, etc.
This month, in fact this week, the largest museum ever built regarding this cultural war, the Museum of Black Civilizations, with over 14,000 square feet of display space, was opened in Dakar, Senegal. As part of the Negritude Movement, it had been proposed by a former Senegalese president in 1966, Leopold Senghor. So, more than 50 years later, the largest building of its kind in the world was finally opened.
The project had been moved forward by a $35 million grant from the Chinese government. The Chinese have been increasingly criticized and scrutinized all over the African world for being overbearing on the continent, and for engaging in a new, “quiet re-colonization of Africa.” This contribution, however, got the Chinese major brownie points.
The museum’s spokespeople said that the central purpose of the museum is to “decolonize knowledge,” and to show that Africans have done more than their fair share in the development of humanity. Thus far, the museum has over 18,000 African art objects and exhibition pieces slated for display, and the museum’s curators and advocates have massively refocused a moribund campaign to convince France, England, Germany and other European powers to send back all the African art and cultural objects stolen during the colonial and neo-colonial periods. Part of that campaign is to convince Europeans that they do not own the African art their ancestors smuggled out of the continent. Several English museums have lately, for example, said they would be willing to “loan” their African treasures to the museum as long as there is an ironclad agreement to return those artifacts to England.
Professor David L. Horne is founder and executive director of PAPPEI, the Pan African Public Policy and Ethical Institute, which is a new 501(c)(3) pending community-based organization or non-governmental organization (NGO). It is the stepparent organization for the California Black Think Tank which still operates and which meets every fourth Friday.
DISCLAIMER: The beliefs and viewpoints expressed in opinion pieces, letters to the editor, by columnists and/or contributing writers are not necessarily those of OurWeekly.