Tag Archives: museum galleries

Contemporary art in the new museum

Introducing contemporary art into the museum is an important feature of the renovation process. In mid-2015, the museum launched a call for projects for the highly symbolic rotunda hall. Kinshasa-based Congolese artist aimé Mpané won the commission. The work he created for the rotunda, entitled “Nouveau soufflé ou le Congo bourgeonnant” dialogues with the gilded statues in the niches.

Contemporary artworks will also be installed in other symbolically-charged areas, where they will call out the museum’s colonial aspects. The artist residencies of Freddy Tsimba and Eddy Ekete, two artists from Kinshasa, took place in the framework. Moreover, several works were purchased for the new permanent exhibition: L’Arbre généalogique Tome I by Aimé Ntakiyica (Burundi) and Mémoire Hévéa by Michèle Magema (DRC). Barly Baruti (Brussels) also received a commission for the new permanent exhibit.

Volunteer work @ the AfricaMuseum

Last Saturday the museum organized its very first info session for future volunteers.
AfricaMuseum is known as one of the world’s most beautiful and impressive museums devoted to Africa, so you can imagine their keen interest in being an active part of it! About 20 enthusiastic future volunteers enjoyed an informative afternoon that included a special visit to the construction site.

The museum is developing volunteer work opportunities so that members of the public can play an active part in the project. A whole range of possibilities will be available.
Even before the museum reopens, some volunteers can already lend a hand during specific activities, such as the return of the museum’s masterpieces or preparations of reopening festivities.
They can also help set up the exhibitions and the welcome pavilion by installing or moving museum pieces and fittings. And just by being ambassadors for the museum, our volunteers will already be making a great contribution to our efforts to develop these opportunities.
AfricaTube is also based on volunteer work. It has already been mentioned in previous blog posts. It is a specific project inviting young volunteers aged 16 to 26 to be part of this interactive and digital platform that selects videos from the internet to show a more contemporary Africa, and show its innovative, creative, and dynamic face.

Stay tuned!

‘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’

Restauratie van de originele vitrines door IPARC

vitrines2Al sinds eind 2013 werkt een team van IPARC cvba (International Platform for Art Research and Conservation) aan de restauratie van de oorspronkelijke vitrines van het KMMA. Met de eindmeet in zicht gingen we ons licht opsteken bij Leen Gysen, managing partner en Peter Taeymans, partner wood conservation.

zaalLeen Gysen: ‘IPARC is een multidisciplinair restauratiebedrijf voor roerend erfgoed en kunstobjecten dat op deze werf in onderaanneming werkt voor aannemer Denys NV. Het bedrijf bestaat uit een team van 14 mensen die gespecialiseerd zijn in de conservatie en restauratie van schilderijen, polychromie (beschilderde beelden), stenen objecten, textiel en meubilair.
Ongeveer de helft van onze opdrachten gebeurt in ons atelier in Melsbroek en de andere helft in situ. Dat is ook het geval voor jullie vitrines, die worden in het museumgebouw zelf gerestaureerd. Dat geeft als bijkomende moeilijkheid dat het werfatelier voor de vitrines telkens opschuift in functie van de andere werkzaamheden in de zalen. De werf is volop aan de gang wat gepaard gaat met stof, geluid, trillingen.
Regelmatig verhuizen we dus met een heleboel vitrines naar een andere zaal waar voor een aantal weken geen werfwerkzaamheden gepland zijn. Wij werken alleszins in nauw en wekelijks overleg met de verschillende partijen zoals aannemer, architect, scenograaf en museumklant.’

peter-iparcPeter Taeymans is hoofd van het driekoppig team houtrestauratoren dat zich over de vitrines van het KMMA ontfermt maar daarnaast ook restauratie-opdrachten op andere werven uitvoert.

Peter Taeymans: ‘In het museum gaat het om zo’n 167 vitrines waarvan nu ongeveer drie kwart klaar is.
Het is moeilijk te zeggen hoelang we gemiddeld aan een vitrine werken. Het gaat om een twaalftal verschillende types vitrines en elke restauratie is anders.

De vitrines uit de jaren 1970 zijn allemaal stevig verbouwd en moeten allemaal naar de originele staat worden teruggebracht.  Alle niet-originele onderdelen worden verwijderd. De ene vitrine is ook al in betere staat dan de andere maar bij de meeste vitrines worden zowel het hout, het glas als het metaal onder handen genomen. Glas wordt opgepoetst of vervangen, metalen onderdelen worden van roest ontdaan en geolied en de vernis op het hout wordt geconserveerd.

schadevitrine1De restauraties worden per zaal uitgevoerd zodat er in serie kan gewerkt worden. Bijvoorbeeld als we het metalen lijstwerk demonteren, gebeurt dat meteen voor een hele hoop vitrines tegelijkertijd. Eenmaal gerestaureerd worden de vitrines opgeleverd zodat ze nog kunnen voorzien worden van sokkelverlichting en klimaatregeling. Alles wordt ook gedocumenteerd.

De moeilijkheid van deze opdracht ligt in de hoeveelheid, de mobiliteit en het stof. Er zijn twee grote werkfases voorzien bij dit project: een eerste voor de algemene restauraties en een tweede voor de afwerking, wanneer er geen aannemingswerken, die stofoverlast veroorzaken,  meer uitgevoerd worden en de vitrines op hun plaats staan.’

Restauratie van schilderijen

Een andere opdracht die het KMMA aan IPARC heeft toegewezen is de restauratie van een tachtigtal populaire schilderijen uit de Democratische Republiek Congo uit de periode 1968 tot 2012.
Het gaat om portretten, landschappen, allegorische schilderijen, stedelijke taferelen, historische figuren en kritische reflecties op religie, politiek en maatschappelijke problemen waarbij humor nooit ver weg is. Deze schilderijen maken het onderwerp uit van de pop-up tentoonstelling Congo Art Works. Populaire schilderkunst die zal doorgaan van 7 oktober 2016 tot 22 januari 2017 in BOZAR te Brussel.


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.

Six Professionnels d’origine Africaine associés à la rénovation du Musée

Réunion MRAC- Scénographes- Groupe des 6 du 5 mars 15 MD

© Ayoko Mensah

Depuis plus d’un an, six professionnels d’origine africaine, élus par le Comraf (Comité de concertation MRAC-Associations africaines) participent au processus d’élaboration de la nouvelle exposition permanente du musée.

Une initiative expérimentale.

Cela fait plus de dix ans que le Musée royal de l’Afrique centrale collabore avec des associations des diasporas africaines en Belgique. Créé en 2003, le Comraf incarne ce lien en tant qu’organe consultatif permanent qui réunit des représentants des diasporas et du musée.

L’immense chantier de la rénovation, et plus particulièrement l’élaboration de la nouvelle exposition permanente, ne pouvait donc avoir lieu sans y associer des professionnels originaires d’Afrique centrale.

En septembre 2014, le Comraf a ainsi élu six « experts », aux compétences complémentaires, chargés de participer au long et complexe processus de création de la nouvelle exposition permanente : Toma Muteba  Luntumbue, artiste, professeur à l’École de la Cambre et commissaire d’exposition ; Billy Kalonji, président du Comraf et responsable de la Plateforme Associative Africaine d’Anvers ; Anne Wetsi Mpoma, journaliste et productrice ; Emeline Uwizeyimana, sociologue et chercheuse à l’ULB ; Gratia Mpungu, sociologue et Ayoko Mensah, consultante.

Depuis son entrée en fonction, le mois suivant, ce « Groupe des six » a assisté à une trentaine de réunions avec différentes parties prenantes : la chef de projet, le comité de pilotage, les responsables scientifiques, mais aussi les muséologues et les scénographes.

La conception de la nouvelle exposition, ses choix muséographiques et son organisation thématique ont fait l’objet de nombreuses questions, de critiques et de propositions alternatives de la part des six experts.

ayokoh bewerkt

© Ayoko Mensah

Chaque réunion a été l’occasion d’intenses débats et d’échanges de points de vue constructifs et enrichissants. L’enjeu du nouveau musée de Tervuren, une fois rénové, n’est-il pas de décentrer le discours européen et de renouveler le regard du public sur les sociétés d’Afrique centrale, loin des clichés coloniaux d’antan ?

Pour cela, les idées, les suggestions et les apports du «Groupe des six», nourris par les membres du Comraf, s’avèrent tout simplement déterminants.


Ayoko Mensah

Sneak Peek inside the museumbuilding !


Start the slideshow and see how much the museum has changed since your last visit !

Watch also:
The construction site until April 2015
Sneak Peek inside from February until July ’15
Ministers and press visit the construction site
Emptying the galleries of the Royal Museum for Central Africa