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Myths, censorship and the representation of precolonial history in the museums of tropical Africa

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A lecturer at the University of Clermont-Ferrand II, France, Anne Gaugue explores how museums in African states have been used as instruments of political power in colonial and post-colonial times. She explains that the myths and censorships in presenting ancient history and the slave trade in the region’s museums are motivated by their need to promote national and regional cohesion. The article recalls past and recent events portraying the distortions in the way African museums represent both their national histories and the history of the continent – how they remain vague about the role played by the African intermediaries and silent on the subject of Arab and inter-African trades. There are no exhibitions, for example, linking slave trading with the creation and power of the African political entities. However, it recounts the efforts of two museums in holding full-scale exhibitions on the history of the Arab slave trade and in describing the facts as they happened.

Document Type: Original Article


Affiliations: University of Clermont-Ferrand II, France

Publication date: July 1, 2001

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