The gallery of black societies is located in Dakar, opposite the grand theatre and covers, 14000 m ². Senator’s Museum of black civilization opened in Dakar in December 2018. Within the few months it has been opened, the museum has already defied prospects. When they opened, people told them that nobody would want to come to visit or be interested in the art and culture. Fortunately for the museum, when it opened in January, it received, 17000 people in one month to have a look at the historic artefacts and other art pieces. Senegal’s chairman Leopold Séda Senghor introduced the idea over 50 years ago, intending to bring the continent together and celebrate blackness. It was time for Africans to be capable to learn and recognise their history and to be able to choose which part of their history they would like to acknowledge and celebrate. It is important for them to have a space for their people, to be proud again, to be African and a part of the continent and from that community. From the perspective of collecting contemporary art pieces, they want the museum to be a part of their time, to collect the major artists of their history and be appreciated by coming generations. The main interest was to find a way to celebrate artists such as Soly Cisse, Viye Dibar, Oumou Sy etc. are major figures of contemporary African art that need to be seen by their social group and people on the continent first.
At the museum’s inauguration, Mr Ernesto OttoneR., UNESCO’s Assistant Director-General for Culture who represented the Organization’s Director-General at the occasion, presented the President of the Republic of Senegal with a copy of archival material held by UNESCO since 1974. Noting that these archives were the beginning of the Black Civilization Museum, Mr Ottone stated that” They will recall not only the links between the two institutions but also the common commitment to promoting dialogue and peace ” and also expressed UNESCO’s willingness to continue providing support for the development and creation of culture in Africa.
The architecture of the museum was inspired by the impluvium huts of Casamance and Great Zimbabwe. The museum consists of four floors. Each level exposes the social and scientific advances spread by black societies in successional order. However, for now, only the first two levels are open. The top floor accommodates a splendid performance hall.
Africa has never stopped to mark the history of civilizations. The continent has contributed to specialized, methodological and philosophical knowledge as well as to the political and economic association of complex societies. Africa is a land of passionate cultural creativity, and a rich culture continues to inspire and spread throughout. The new Black Civilizations Museum supports the confirmation of this. It is part of a new generation of museums that the continent is developing, where discussion and exchange of ideas among civilizations are the highlights so that the mainland and its scattering, through the work carried out by African experts in writing their history. The museum of Black Civilizations was also considered a place of education, an element of integration and social education of discussion between cultures and societies, and gathering space and exchange in the period of globalization.
This is a significant step towards the awareness of an African mainland with a powerful artistic identity, popular heritage, ethics and values encouraged by the African Union’s Agenda 2063. The museum of black civilizations strategy, considered by President Senghor following the First Festival of Negro Arts in 1966, gained the attention of René Maheu, former Director-General of UNESCO, during his visit to Dakar in 1974. The design was originally assigned to the Mexican architect Pedro Ramirez Vasquez, who designed the National Museum of Anthropology in Mexico City, for the design of the structure itself and to the Swiss ethnologist and writer Jean Gabus for the gallery.
Later on, in 2016 and 2017, UNESCO, the only United Nations agency with precise authorization in culture, was invited by Senegal to share in the Museum’s planning conference and design workshops. The acceptance by the UNESCO General Conference in November 2015 of the Recommendation concerning the Protection and Promotion of Museums and Collections, their diversity and their purpose in Society enabled the organization to take another vital step towards the development and execution of an advanced and open vision of museums in the twenty-first century. In particular, UNESCO also shared documents on World Heritage spots and the archives of African women who have made a specific contribution to the African mainland and beyond.
Presently, UNESCO welcomes the successful completion of the museum and the international organization that has taken place around it, exacting the support provided by the People’s Republic of China, and the harmony of multiple African museums, whose professionals have participated in its scientific design and the composition of its collections.
- Inauguration of the black civilizations museum: An important milestone in the history of Senegal, Africa and its Diaspora (no date) UNESCO.org. Available at: https://www.unesco.org/en/articles/inauguration-black-civilizations-museum-important-milestone-history-senegal-africa-and-its-diaspora (Accessed: March 8, 2023).
- Senegal shuttle (no date) SENEGAL SHUTTLE. Available at: https://www.senegal-shuttle.com/history-in-the-black-civilizations-museum/ (Accessed: March 8, 2023).
- Searcey, D. and Nayeri, F. (2019) Senegal’s Museum of Black Civilizations welcomes some treasures home, The New York Times. The New York Times. Available at: https://www.nytimes.com/2019/01/15/arts/design/museum-of-black-civilizations-restitution-senegal-macron.html (Accessed: March 8, 2023).
- Magazine, S. (2018) Sprawling Museum of Black Civilizations opens in Senegal, Smithsonian.com. Smithsonian Institution. Available at: https://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/sprawling-museum-black-civilizations-opens-senegal-180970976/ (Accessed: March 8, 2023).
- World’s greatest places: Museum of Black Civilizations (2019) Time. Time. Available at: https://time.com/collection/worlds-greatest-places-2019/5654118/museum-of-black-civilizations-dakar-senegal/ (Accessed: March 8, 2023).
(2019) Senegal’s Museum of Black Civilizations: Celebrating Blackness. CGTN Africa. Available at: https://youtu.be/Eri0OMwG-es (Accessed: March 8, 2023).