Building peace in the minds of men and women

Inauguration of the Black Civilizations Museum: an important milestone in the history of Senegal, Africa and its diaspora

07 December 2018

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© UNESCO

Today in Dakar UNESCO is celebrating alongside Senegal, Africa and its diaspora, the inauguration of the Black Civilizations Museum, which is part of a new generation of museums designed as a vibrant place for encounters and the transmission of both tangible and intangible heritage.

Africa has never ceased to mark the history of civilizations. The continent has contributed to scientific, technical and philosophical knowledge as well as  to the political and economic organisation of complex societies. Africa is a land of intense artistic creativity and its rich culture continues to inspire and spread throughout the world.
The new Black Civilizations Museum bears witness to this. It is part of a new generation of museums that the continent is developing, where dialogue and exchange among civilizations are in the spotlight so that the continent and its diaspora, through the work carried out by African experts and professionals, keep writing their history. The Black Civilizations Museum was also conceived as a place of education, a factor of integration and social education, of dialogue between cultures and civilizations, and a place of meeting and exchange in the era of globalization. This is an important step towards the realization of an African continent with a strong cultural identity, common heritage, values and ethics as advocated by the African Union's Agenda 2063.

The museum project, conceived by President Senghor in the wake of the First Festival of Negro Arts in 1966, drew the attention of René Maheu, former Director-General of UNESCO, during his visit to Dakar in 1974. The project was initially entrusted to the Mexican architect Pedro Ramirez Vasquez, who designed the National Museum of Anthropology in Mexico City, for the design of the building itself and to the Swiss ethnologist and writer Jean Gabus for the museum. Many years later, in 2016 and 2017, UNESCO, the only United Nations agency with a specific mandate in culture, was invited by Senegal to participate in the Museum's planning conference and design workshops. The adoption by the UNESCO General Conference in November 2015 of the Recommendation concerning the Protection and Promotion of Museums and Collections, their Diversity and their Role in Society enabled the Organization to take another decisive step towards the development and implementation of an innovative and open vision of museums in the twenty-first century. In particular, UNESCO has shared documents on World Heritage sites, as well as the archives of African women who have made a particular contribution to the African continent and beyond.
Today, UNESCO welcomes the successful completion of this pan-African project and the international mobilization that has taken place around it, in particular the support provided by the People's Republic of China, and the solidarity of many African museums, whose professionals have participated in its scientific design and in the constitution of its collections.

On the occasion of the inauguration, Mr Ernesto Ottone R., UNESCO's Assistant Director-General for Culture who represented the Organization’s Director-General at the event, 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 genesis 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. » He also expressed UNESCO's readiness to continue to provide support for the development and promotion of culture in Africa and in particular for capacity-building.