As some of us are planning and getting ready to rode the trolley to travel and roam the world only this time with much caution and precaution. It pays to embark on journeys that fundamentally reorient our senses. All of us have equivalents. Things we care about that aren’t mentioned anywhere. And part of growing and learning to travel well, means daring to take our own interests a bit more seriously rather than following the hype. So, what is the traveler’s mindset? Receptivity, appreciation and gratitude might be its chief characteristics. Museums are a great place to start especially in getting to know a country better but most importantly it’s history people and culture.
According to the most commonly cited figures from a 2007 UNESCO forum, 90% to 95% of sub-Saharan cultural artifacts are housed outside Africa. Many includes works from Benin that were taken during the colonial period and ended up in museums across Europe and North America. At the Africa Museum in Belgium, director Guido Gryseels states, 85 percent of the museum’s collection comes from the Congo — the site of Belgium’s former colony in Central Africa. We will discuss stolen arts from Africa soon, for now let us explore our top 10 must see African Arts Museums in Africa. Hopefully this will help you decide which country among the 54 countries in the continent to visit next.
1. The National Bardo Museum (Tunisia):
The National Bardo Museum is one of the most important museums in the Mediterranean region and the second museum on the continent after the Egyptian Museum of Cairo by richness of its collections. It traces the history of Tunisia over several millennia and across several civilizations through a wide variety of archaeological pieces.
Housed in an old beylical palace since 1888, it has been the setting for the exhibition of many major works discovered since the beginning of archaeological research in the country. Undoubtedly one of the art museums in Africa that represents every region of the country. Since it’s collections date back to 40,000 years, it includes the Hermaion of El Guettar—the first temple edified by man to honor the supreme force of the sky. The museum is in an old 19th Century Beylic palace. It contains the largest collection of mosaics in the world. Gallery of Christian baptisteries, Roman sarcophaguses, and large collections of Punic jewels are a few treasures you will find within. The great Tunisian sites classified by the UNESCO as part of the world virtual pantheon of the humanity are:
• The city of Carthage
• Ancient Dougga of western Tunisia
• El Djem’s spectacular Coliseum
• The refined Arab Medinas of Kairouan, Tunis, and Sousse.
Each one of these remarkable cities is present in the Bardo Museum’s collections
2. Nigerian National Museum, (Lagos, Nigeria):
The Nigerian National Museum is a national museum of Nigeria, located in the city of Lagos. Established in 1957 by the English archaeologist Kenneth Murray. The museum has a notable collection of Nigerian art, including pieces of statuary and carvings and archaeological and ethnographic exhibits. Of note is a terra-cotta human head known as the Jemaa Head (c. 900 to 200 BC), part of the Nok culture. The piece is named after Jema’a, the village where it was uncovered. It is located at Onikan, Lagos Island.
The museum has some amazing artifacts, though honestly the presentation is a little disheveled. The Cycle of Life exhibit explores traditional Nigerian life, from birth to death to afterlife. Exhibits include a clay Yoruba pot to bury an umbilical cord and an Egungun masquerade costume used for dancing during a chief’s funeral; the voluminous orange cape has sequins, coins and beads attached. Don’t forget to stop by the museum’s crafts village, where you can buy woodcarvings and more.
3. The Grand Egyptian Museum (Egypt):
The Grand Egyptian Museum holds in trust for Egypt and the World a chronological statement for the ancient history of Egypt over the past 7000 years. Neighboring a timeless wonder, the Giza Pyramids, the new museum is to pay homage to eternal Ancient Egyptian monuments, treasures, and history hosting over 100,000 artifacts, about 3500 of which belong to the famous King Tutankhamen.
The design for the Grand Egyptian Museum was reached as a result of an international architectural competition initiated by the Ministry of Culture on January 7th, 2002. The competition was under the patronage of the UNESCO and supervised by the UI. The long-awaited grand opening of the new museum is said to be by the last quarter of 2020. With its unique position on the cusp between the past and the present, the Grand Egyptian Museum will lie at the repository for ancient artifacts that creates an interactive experience for the visitor; it will build a bridge between the past and the future.
4. Nairobi National Museum, Nairobi, Kenya:
Open every day of the year and located just ten minutes from Nairobi’s center, this museum celebrates Kenya’s rich heritage with an art gallery, as well as beautiful architecture and serene botanical gardens. This is one of the art museums in Africa with a long history. Its establishment dates back to 1910. However, work on the site of the current museum started in 1929. It was previously called the Coryndon Museum in honor of Sir Robert Coryndon, a former Governor of Kenya. However, after attaining independence, the name was changed to the National Museums of Kenya. The museum houses celebrated collections of Kenya’s history of contemporary art, culture, and nature.
5. The Museum of Black Civilizations, known in French as the Musée des Civilisations noires(MCN), Dakar, Senegal:
A 150,000-square-foot, circular structure, modelled after the traditional houses of Senegal’s Casamance region. Inside the Museum of Black Civilizations, visitors will find ambitious displays spanning both centuries and continents. The exhibition “Cradle of Humankind,” for instance, looks back to human origins in Africa and features early stone tools. “African Civilizations: Continuous Creation of Humanity” delves into the history of masks and “the traditions of Sufism and Christianity in Africa.” Another exhibition hall, “The Caravan and Caravel,” explores how African communities in the Americas grew out of the slave trade. Among the contemporary artworks to appear in the new museum are pieces by the Cuban artist Elio Rodriguez, South Africa’s Andries Botha, and the Haitian artist Philippe Dodard. The collections, however, are not complete. The MCN has room for some 18,000 artworks.
Another section of the museum features Good As Gold: Fashioning Senegalese Women is the first major exhibition of Senegalese gold jewelry to date that focuses on the history of Senegal’s gold, from past to present, and the beauty and complexity of the way Senegalese women use ornament and fashion to present themselves. Rooted in the Wolof concept of sañse (dressing up, looking and feeling good), Good As Gold examines the production, display, and circulation of gold in Senegal as it celebrates a significant gift of gold jewelry to the National Museum of African Art collection.
6. Zinsou Foundation Museum, Villa Ajavon, (Ouidah, Benin):
The first museum devoted to African contemporary art to open in sub-Saharan Africa outside of South Africa, this museum focuses on the preservation of African artistic heritage in the land of its origins. The Fondation Zinsou museum of contemporary African art opened in Ouidah, Benin, in November 2013. The museum occupies the Villa Ajavon, a fine example of the Afro-Brazilian style, built in 1922. The museum features several rooms, one of which is the Cyprien Tokoudagba room. Tokoudagba, who died in 2012, is well represented at Ouidah, with several spectacular large, multicoloured sculptures recalling Vodun (voodoo) myths in the streets of the town or its sacred forest. The Romuald Hazoumé room at the Villa Ajavon. Hazoumé’s photographs and jerry-can masks have appeared in museums and books and play on the complex relationship between contemporary artists and traditional art forms. The Kifouli Dossou room is a gifted sculptor by Dossou. Dossou has reworked an ancient model, the Guelede mask, which belongs to Yoruba and Nora tradition. The head proper is topped by an often elaborate crest, but Dossou brings in scenes from everyday life such as road accidents, gangsters settling scores and farming.
7. The Pretoria Art Museum (South Africa):
The foundation stone for the Pretoria Art Museum was laid on October 19th, 1962. It was initially created to house the growing art collections in the City Hall. At that time, it had only a small collection of artworks by South African artists. However, with other museums across the nation already doing that, The Pretoria Art Museum wanted to be different. In recent years, the museum pays more attention to contemporary developments in South African arts. This urban and rural art as well as traditional art. Inasmuch as South African art remains the main focus, wherever possible, the museum acquires sculptures and paintings from famous international artists.
8. The Makumbusho Village Museum (Tanzania):
This is one of the five major museums in the country. It showcases houses constructed with equipment from some of the tribes in the country. Its location in the heart of Dar es Salaam makes it easy to find. Village Museum also has a collection of paintings and photographs in its archives. Visitors also get a wide array of souvenirs to remind them of their visit.
9. The Cameroon National Museum (Cameroon):
The origin of this museum dates back to 1930s. However, after the country’s independence, the country’s first president, Ahmadou Ahidjo carried out an extension work on the building. The building only got the status as a museum in 2014 following a prime ministerial decree. There are over 850 artifacts on display in the museum. This collection cuts across the different regions of the country.
10. Musem de l’Armee AlgiersThe Musem de l’Armee Algiers, (Algeria):
Located near the famous monument of the capital Makam El Chahid (Monument of Martyrs), in the municipality of El Madania in the wilaya of Algiers.The collections of Musem de l’Armee Algiers :The African Art museum displays various objects, clothing, weapons and other unique African Art pieces that belonged to the Algerian fighters of the Numidian era through the colonization to the present day. Exceptional items include a Napoleon III sword offered to Emir Abdelkader, the guillotine of Serkadji prison and personal belongings of Ali la Pointe. El Madania is a municipality in Algiers Province, Algeria. It is administratively part of Sidi M’Hamed district. Its municipal code is 1603 and postal code is 16075. It has a population of 51,404 as of the 1998 census, which gives it 15 seats in the PMA.