New York’s “Met” and Major Western Museums Aim to Decolonize Their Perspective on Africa

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The ‘Met’ in New York and significant Western museums want to decolonize their view of Africa. The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York wants to focus more on Africa and its 3,000-year cultural history.

To do this, the fourth most visited museum in the world is revamping the Michael C. Rockefeller Wing dedicated to Africa, Oceania, and pre-colonial America. For about 10 million euros, that new look will open to visitors in the spring of 2025.

“We wanted a completely new architecture and scenography to showcase African arts,” explained Max Hollein, director of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, when asked to justify the tens of millions of euros currently being spent on renovations at the famous New York museum.

Over 4,000 works from 40 countries in today’s sub-Saharan Africa, some more than 3,000 years old, will be showcased by putting the pieces into local historiography rather than just about the West. Too often, African art objects are judged based on representations and because they have influenced modern European art.

“We wanted to make sure we no longer have just a Western-centred perspective,” said Max Hollein in a recent interview with Agence France Presse.

This repositioning of the objects will be part of a repositioning of the museum. Namely, decorative, sacrificial, demonstrative, or ritual objects, and this in their context. This initiative of mediation of the Museum of Modern Art in New York is based on vast research and academic workshops.

However, although partnerships have been established with African museums, particularly in Nigeria, it does not tackle the issue of returning works looted during colonization.

Soukaina Sghir

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