Tag Archives: collections

Oceania, nouvelle expo Pop-up au Musée du Cinquantenaire

Du 26 octobre 2017 au 29 avril 2018 se tient au Musée du Cinquantenaire, l’exposition « Oceania. Voyages dans l’immensité ». Il s’agit de la dernière exposition Pop-up du MRAC avant la réouverture.

Cette exposition était l’occasion pour le MRAC de montrer une vingtaine d’objets provenant de ses collections océaniennes. Les réserves océaniennes du MRAC regroupent en effet plus de 2500 pièces, assez mal connues du public belge, même si elles étaient bien présentes lors des expositions « Océanie » (espace ING, Bruxelles, 2008) et « Masterpieces New Guinea Art from the Royal Museum of Central Africa » (BRUNEAF, Ancienne Nonciature, Bruxelles, 2014).

Dans le cadre de cette exposition, on peut souligner les échanges qui eurent lieu entre le Musée royal de l’Afrique centrale et les Musées royaux d’Art et d’Histoire. Entre 1967 et 1979, les MRAH récupérèrent en effet les chefs-d’œuvre Art Nouveau que le MRAC avait hérités suite à l’exposition Bruxelles-Tervuren en 1897. De son côté, le MRAC récupéra des objets africains, océaniens, et américains que possédaient les MRAH. Même si l’objectif était à l’époque que le MRAC devienne un musée ethnographique du monde entier, toutes les collections non européennes ne quittèrent pas les MRAH et très rapidement le projet fut abandonné.

Masque, bois, Archipel Bismark, Papouasie-Nouvelle-Guinée, XIXe s. – EO.1979.1.1367Collection MRAC; photo R. Pessemier, MRAC. Pendentif, tema, écaille de tortue, coquillage, Santa Cruz, îles Salomon, XIXe s. – E0.1979.1.1418, Collection MRAC; photo R. Pessemier, MRAC. Figure de proue de pirogue, tabuyo, bois, îles Trobriand, Papouasie-Nouvelle-Guinée, fin XIXe s. – EO.1979.1.1224, Collection MRAC; photo R. Pessemier, MRAC. Proue de pirogue, bois, coquillages, nacre, Îles Salomon, début XXe s. EO.1979.1.1382, Collection MRAC; photo R. Pessemier, MRAC.

‘Congo Art Works’ through the eyes of a guide

‘Congo Art Works’ is the most recent exhibition of our pop-up museum. The popular paintings from 1968-2012 currently on show in BOZAR are very entwined with daily life in Congo. The exhibition is worth your admiration, says Katrien Van Craenenbroeck who has been an educational worker in the museum for over 15 years. She walks you through Congo Art Works and explains her thoughts on the exhibit.

You have been a guide for many years now. How would you describe our latest exhibition Congo Art Works?
The exhibition shows the museum’s scientific and artistic expertise through a combination of older ethnographic collection pieces as well as recently acquired paintings, never shown in Belgium, from historian Bogumil Jewsiewicki’s collection. In this collection you can find classic paintings which are mainly all about landscapes and African nature. They are painted with high quality materials by artists with no real academic background. However, they had the opportunity to be gathered in a school which was called ‘academy’ and be guided and sponsored by the French marine Desfosses. On the other hand, you have the popular paintings which are fully connected with urban life. People painted to survive and had no academic background whatsoever. They used basic materials and things you can find in daily life such as wax prints for a canvas and palm oil as a base for paint.

What are the biggest challenges in this exhibit for you?
That would be to guide in a way that everybody in the group understands what I try to explain. It would be sad if people booked a guided tour and afterwards didn’t get what the exhibit is all about. It has so many layers, it’s much more complex than meets the eye. I try as much as possible to adapt my tour to the group in front of me. An art school for example would be more interested in the materials and aesthetic aspects of the paintings. But if it’s a group of people who are culture lovers but no experts on the subject I will try to keep my tour more general.

As a guide you are directly in contact with the public. How do you manage to build a wellstructured answer to the most critical questions, considering you don’t have time to really think it through?
I try to ask them what they mean by analysing the question piece by piece. I try to put it in context as much as possible. If the answer isn’t enough for them, they can always leave their contact information. I will gladly do deeper research and get back to them afterwards.

There is so much to see in this exhibition and in each painting in particular. Considering a
guided tour takes 1.5 hours, how do you manage this?
There are 82 paintings in the exhibit and a lot of ethnographic objects as well. Of course it’s not possible to talk about each painting and I have to be selective. I always have some sort of tour in my head and make a selection before the tour begins. I also know which themes I would like to highlight and what messages to bring to the table. In each room there are some titles from which I always try to build my story but, as I said before this also varies according to the interests of the group. Most of the time 1.5 hours is just long enough for people to remain focused on the subject, but it does occur that they can’t get enough of the tour. In that case, if I have the time, I do try to chat with them afterwards and suggest that they take another tour around the exhibit by themselves as well. We also sell a lovely catalogue which can be purchased in the museum shop in our CAPA-building. And they are always welcome to join our other pop-up activities such as Africa Sundays. Of course, I also encourage them to look forward to the reopening in 2018.

You studied African languages and culture at Ghent University. Does that mean that you
already had a lot of background information or did you have to study the exhibit yourself?
It’s been a while since I graduated and although everything around languages and culture remains very appealing to me, I did have to enlighten myself on this particular subject. For one because the exhibit shows popular painting from another point of view than just the aesthetic one. There are so many different aspects: social life, history, politics… I guess you can say that I do have more affinity for the paintings that have words written in some of the national languages since I do understand some of them. I really love the way many artists show the power of languages in their paintings.

In conclusion, what is your top 3 selection and why is this exhibit an absolute must-see?
Choosing my Top 3 took me quite some time and isn’t absolute since I love many more than 3
paintings in the exhibit but if I must choose:

Edisak, ‘Inakale’, Bunia, Ituri, DRC, 1992, RMCA collection, Tervuren.

‘Inakale’ was very popular in the 70s and 80s and was painted for locals especially. It tells a story about a man sitting in a tree. He wants to get out of the tree because a snake is coming for him on the branches. He’s trapped because on the land is a lion patiently waiting for him to come down. And he can’t jump into the water on the other side since a crocodile is also waiting for dinner in the river.This painting is ideal to get a discussion started: what does it mean? Is there a religious and spiritual meaning behind it? Is it more of a political interpretation during the Mobutu regime? Is it a situation that actually happened and therefore more about history? It all depends on your own personal interpretation.

Chéri Cherin, ‘Lutte pour la survie’, Kinshasa, DRC, 2002. RMCA collection, Tervuren.

A painting with more of a contemporary theme is one from Chéri Chérin.You can see people with different diseases going to what seems to be a traditional doctor. The writing on the wall reveals that he is specialised in everything and therefore cures everything. Behind the walls of the inner courtyard where the doctor works his magic loom both a hospital and a church. An airplane flies through the very blue skies. It shows everything about healthcare in Congo which is often problematic. The hospital and airplane show the more expensive solutions, which can only be paid for by the rich, while the church and the traditional medicine man can be interpreted as being the only option for the average person.

Woyo pot lid. RMCA collection, Tervuren.

One of the ethnographic objects that I really like is the Woyo pot lid. It has a direct link to the oral habits in Congolese society. History shows us that they were used for communication between couples or family members. For example, when a woman wanted to discuss a problem with her husband she would place a pot lid on the freshly cooked meal she made for him. I think it’s very original and inspiring, and it makes me a bit sad that this habit has no longer been in use since the beginning of the 20th century.

Why is this exhibit a must-see?
First off, because you get to see much more than paintings of the big artists such as Chéri Chérin and Chéri Samba. They paint for European clientele whereas popular artwork is much broader. The exhibition places popular paintings in a social and historical context and also shows paintings that have never been on show before. The combination with the older objects is pretty unique too. The way the so-called ethnographic ‘ritual’ objects are interpreted is much subtler than usually shown in temporary exhibits. Therefore, you can say this exhibit is exceptionally sensational!

> more information about ‘Congo Art Works’

Aankleding van de Hortahal voor de expo ‘Congo Art Works’

Van 7 oktober 2016 tot 22 januari 2017 loopt de tentoonstelling Congo Art Works. Populaire Schilderkunst. van het KMMA, in samenwerking met BOZAR. De schilderijen, archiefstukken en voorwerpen uit de collectie van historicus Bogumil Jewsiewicki die tentoongesteld worden zijn sterk verbonden met het dag dagelijkse leven van de Congolezen. Langs de ene kant zijn ze zeer kritisch en kaarten ze verschillende problemen aan maar langs de andere kant is er ook veel humor in verwerkt waardoor de onderwerpen wat luchtiger worden.


De indrukwekkende Hortahal maakt ook deel uit van de tentoonstelling met een installatie van kunstenaar Sammy Baloji. Hij is tevens samen met Bambi Ceuppens curator van de tentoonstelling.

img_5523Voor de beschildering van zowel het fronton als de zuilen heeft hij zich laten inspireren door inheemse motieven die voorkomen op het gerechtsgebouw van het Congolese Niangara, dat in 1903 op vraag van de Belgische koloniale autoriteiten door lokale schilders werd beschilderd. Het bureau Überkrackig zorgde voor de traditionele motieven en patronen en met de hulp van vier studenten van de Académie Royale des Beau (ESA), Dabie Hur, Guillaume Cazemet, Rachel Magnan, Stéphane Stadler en één student van La Cambre (ENSAV) Edouard Pagant krijgt het gerechtsgebouw als het ware een tweede leven in de Hortahal. Zeker de moeite waard om een kijkje te gaan nemen.



Ook een aangrenzende muur wordt onderhanden genomen. Djo Bolankoko en twee andere studenten van de Straatburgse Haute École des Arts du Rhin (HEAR) zorgen ervoor dat de muur wordt omgetoverd tot een collage van verschillende uithangborden van winkeltjes en populaire schilders in Kinshasa. Het straatbeeld en het Congolese dagdagelijkse komt hierdoor echt tot leven.

Le relooking a commencé !



Pour être à nouveau la curiosité de nos visiteurs, les spécimens zoologiques qui figureront dans la nouvelle exposition permanente du MRAC suivent un traitement de jouvence ! Pas moins de 174 spécimens doivent passer entre les mains de taxidermistes.



Devant l’ampleur du travail, la taxidermie a été confiée partiellement à la firme néerlandaise Bouten, et partiellement à l’Institut royal des Sciences naturelles de Belgique (IRSNB). Bouten assurera notamment la restauration de l’éléphant


et de la girafe, restauration qui se fera au sein même de notre musée. À l’IRSNB, Christophe De Mey et Virginie Grignet assurent la restauration d’une bonne partie de nos oiseaux et de nos trophées.

Au total, ce sont 63 oiseaux, 14 reptiles, 52 mammifères et 45 trophées de mammifères qui sont restaurés. Pour les oiseaux, la restauration consiste essentiellement en un nettoyage et une remise en volume du plumage avec une recoloration des parties nues.

Pour les mammifères, il s’agit de recoller les déchirures et de rajouter des poils lorsque la fourrure est dégarnie. Enfin, pour les reptiles, il faut réparer les craquelures et rafraîchir leur couleur.

L’opération a débuté en février 2016 et devrait prendre un an.

A note from the conservation lab


Intern Anouk De Paepe at work in the conservation lab.

Currently, our conservation laboratory is buzzing with activity in anticipation of the big reopening of the RMCA in 2017. For conservators and conservation technicians Siska Genbrugge, Stef Keyaerts, Nathalie Minten, Françoise Therry, Marieke van Es and Françoise Van Hauwaert, the renovation of the museum is the ideal moment to revisit each and every object that will be displayed at the renovated museum.


During the past few years, scientists have selected various historic and ethnographic objects to be displayed at the museum; ranging from Africa’s most famous masterpieces such as the Luba mask to more obscure medicine packages and weapons.

Each of those items is brought to our objects conservation lab, where it is measured and weighed and where its condition is verified. Some objects are in exceptional state and only need a little dusting before they can go on display. Most objects on the other hand, have not aged as well and need a little Tender Loving Care.

mayombe figure - before
This small Mayombe figure of a smoking man wearing a hat and a walking stick is one of the patients that needed treatment for display.

The object arrived at the conservation lab with a broken walking stick and a broken pipe. It was cleaned and stabilized; both broken parts were re-adhered with a thermoplastic acrylic adhesive (Paraloid B-72), losses were filled with a cellulose based gap filling material and the fills were toned with gouache paint.
A damaged part of the rim of the figure’s hat had been stabilized in the past with a red varnish as a means

mayombe figure - after

to protect against insect attacks and crumbling of the wood.
This red varnish was carefully removed with a solvent gel and the friable wood is currently consolidated with a cellulose based adhesive and stabilized with a Japanese tissue.

After a final dusting the object is ready to be shown to the public for many years to come…and the next amazing object can be submitted to the skillful hands of our conservation team!




(Text and pictures by Siska Genbrugge, RMCA conservator)

Going Postal, a new pop-up exhibition at BELvue museum

Going PostalOn Friday Feb. 5, 2016, the Royal Museum for Central Africa opened ‘Going Postal. (Hi)stories and philately in Belgium’, one of the last pop-up exhibitions while being closed for renovation work. This exhibition presents precious pieces unknown to the public, from private and RMCA collections of postal history.

The opening event

Mathilde Leduc-Grimaldi, curator of 'Going Postal'

Mathilde Leduc-Grimaldi, curator of ‘Going Postal’

With approximately a hundred people or so attending the event on February 5th, the opening was a warm way to mix scientists, curators, art lovers, philatelists and experts under the glass-roof of the newly renovated patio of Belvue Museum, proving once again, that stamps and philately are still in favour of a large range of people.
In their speeches, Director G. Gryseels (RMCA) and Dr D. Allard (King Baudouin Foundation) underlined the privileged relations the Foundation and the Museum have in common, while the curators of the exhibition, Dr M. Leduc-Grimaldi  & P. Maselis emphasized the dynamism of philately, a genre and a collecting process attracting international attention, from kids to fashion designers, Museum curators, and heads of states alike.



The blog4exhibition “Going Postal” presents for the first time to the general public the postal collection of the RMCA mixed with loans from major private collectors from Belgium and bpost, the Belgian Post Group. This conjunction is the occasion of a cultural cross-fertilization in a field rarely opened to broad audiences: art, engineering, politics, or scientific expeditions in stamps highlight the dynamism of Belgium, inside or outside the country.

blog6A unique postal collection
The RMCA postal collection is unique in its constitution. Made of the iconographic archives from postal administration of the Ministry of Colonies, it keeps the various stages of a stamp creating process of, from the Ministry’s decision to the implementation of the project and its final outcome. The RMCA holds the initial sketches, watercolours, tests of colours, or proofs of stamps that were used in the Congo Free State, then in the Belgian Congo and Ruanda-Urundi, from 1885 up to their independence. The rendering of the dainty flora and the lively animals is enchanting, the detailed drawings of pieces of African art, stupendous.

blog5Besides bringing back this exceptional collection to its original lustre, tracking and researching additional documents split at an earlier period was the usual curator’s work. It offers an unparalleled example of views of the country at that period, and echoes the colonial demeanour of the period, when Belgium and Congo’s histories followed the same path for a while.

Practical information
– Temporary exhibition :’Going Postal. (Hi)stories and philately in Belgium
title in French: ‘Complètement timbré.Histoires et philatélie en Belgique’
title in Dutch: ‘Filateliefde.De geschiedenis van België via postzegels‘)
– From 6 February until 10 April 2016
– Location: BELvue museum, Place des Palais 7, 1000 Brussels
– Free entrance
– Open from Tuesday to Friday from 9.30 a.m. to 5 p.m.; during the weekend from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.; on Monday, for groups, by appointment.

> Consult our website for more information on the exhibition, guided tours and catalogue.

De prauw is terug thuis! – La pirogue est de retour!


Op woensdag 3 februari 2016 keerde onze prauw terug naar het museum nadat hij bijna 2 jaar als ‘pop-up’ had vertoefd tussen de vliegtuigen van het Legermuseum te Brussel.

Het werd millimeterwerk om ons grootste collectiestuk op zijn nieuwe plaats te krijgen in de onderaardse gang tussen het nieuwe glazen onthaalpaviljoen en het museumgebouw.
Maar de gespecialiseerde transportfirma MOBULL en een team enthousiaste medewerkers van in en buiten het museum klaarden de klus in geen tijd. De pers stond erbij en keek ernaar…
Bekijk de fotoreportage vanaf het vertrek uit het Legermuseum tot de aankomst in de onderaardse gang.


Mercredi 3 février 2016, la pirogue retournait au musée après avoir passé près de deux ans comme ‘pop-up’ parmi les avions du Musée de l’Armée à Bruxelles.

Il a fallu un travail millimétré pour acheminer notre plus grande pièce vers sa nouvelle place, dans la galerie souterraine reliant le nouveau pavillon d’accueil au bâtiment du musée.

Mais la firme de transport spécialisée MOBULL et une équipe de collaborateurs enthousiastes du musée et d’ailleurs ont mené à bien l’opération en un rien de temps. La presse a suivi l’événement de près.

Regardez le reportage photo, du départ de la pirogue du Musée de l’Armée jusqu’à son arrivée dans la galerie souterraine.

Rencontre avec Julien Volper, commissaire de l’exposition Pop-up ‘Masques Géants du Congo’

Julien dans les collections MRACJulien Volper, conservateur au service Patrimoines du Musée royal de l’Afrique centrale (MRAC) est le commissaire de l’exposition Masques Géants du Congo. Patrimoine ethnographique des jésuites de Belgique qui se tient au musée BELvue à Bruxelles du 12 mai au 8 novembre 2015.

Français d’origine, Julien a fait toutes ses études à Paris mais est arrivé à Tervuren à l’occasion de son mémoire dont le sujet était « les porte-flèches Luba ». Et comme chacun sait, qui dit Luba dit Afrique centrale et qui dit Afrique centrale dit Tervuren. Depuis les années 2000, d’abord comme étudiant, à présent comme conservateur, Julien explore donc les archives et les collections du MRAC. Et suivant son expression « Mes missions de terrain se font dans les réserves du MRAC et d’autres musées, mes informateurs résident dans des villages que l’on nomme archives ou bibliothèques… »

Dès les années 2000, Julien avait découvert la « Collection jésuites » : un ensemble de pièces et d’archives de l’ancien musée missionnaire jésuites d’Heverlee mis en dépôt au MRAC en 1998 et dont le musée se charge depuis de la conservation, de l’archivage, de la restauration et de l’étude scientifique des pièces. Plus il allait dans le détail de cette collection, plus il se disait qu’il y avait là un morceau d’histoire du Bandundu, région du Congo très peu connue.

Rapidement, l’idée lui est venue de faire quelque chose de « visible » de cette gigantesque collection, forte historiquement et intéressante à la fois ethnographiquement et artistiquement. C’est ainsi qu’il a pris contact avec les jésuites et qu’est née cette magnifique exposition qui donne la part belle aux masques kakuungu et au rite de l’initiation masculine du mukanda.

Plus d’infos
–    Exposition Masques Géants du Congo. Patrimoine ethnographique des jésuites de Belgique
–    Du 12 mai au 8 novembre 2015
–    Au musée BELvue, Place des Palais 7, 1000 Bruxelles
–    Ouvert du lundi au vendredi, de 9h30 à 17h00 ; le week-end, de 10h00 à 18h00
–    Fermé le 21 juillet
–    Entrée gratuite / visites guidées gratuites / parcours-jeu…

Pop-up exhibition ‘Giant Masks from the Congo’

Giant Masks from the Congo. A Belgian Jesuit ethnographic heritage
Temporary exhibition from 13 May – 8 November 2015 at BELvue museum, Brussels

Giant Masks from the Congo presents a set of masks used during the mukanda male initiation rite among the Yaka and the Suku, people of the southwestern DR Congo. These masks, along with other pieces on display, reflect the ethnographic research and collection conducted by Jesuit missionaries in the Belgian Congo. The Jesuits were in close contact with the RMCA since the late 1910s.
These masks are remarkable in their exceptional form and design. Most of these pieces have never before been seen in public or in print… more (on our website)