Journal Article — Representation of Africa and the African Diaspora in European Museums — by Artwell Cain

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Abstract

Museums in Europe have a tradition of marginalizing the image and narrative of persons from the African Diaspora. This is often evident in the frequency of appearances and the quality of these scarce productions. Another point of interest is the manner in which these productions are presented. On the one hand, several questions arise regarding the representation of the African after the abolishment of chattel slavery right up to this present age of emancipation. Who gathers and presents these cultural artifacts? Which criteria are applied during the gathering and production of these presentations? Which sorts of museums are inclined to present the African Diaspora in their productions? On the other hand, the participation of persons from the African Diaspora in museums in Europe is problematic. Persons of African Diaspora are not by definition employed as administrators, curators and other stakeholders in these museums.

Interest in Europe about Africa and the African Diaspora has always been partial, distorted or deficient. In the cases where attention has been paid to the African Diaspora, it has been by and large of a negative nature. A central point of inquiry is why this state of affairs has been perpetuated for such long a period of time? In this paper, the author focuses on several aspects of representation of the African Diaspora in European museums in relation to power construction, which goes hand in hand with racism and social exclusion. The main points of departure in this paper are the articulation and location of representation of the African Diaspora especially from the 19th century to the present day. Additionally, the author raises questions about the ways in which NiNsee (The National Institute of Dutch Slavery Past and Legacy) is developing its own distinctive image of the Dutch slavery past and its heritage and how it is attempting at the same time to foster an alternative representation of the African Diaspora.

Recommended Citation

Cain, Artwell. 2011. “Representation of Africa and the African Diaspora in European Museums.” Pp. 105-115 in Contesting Memory: Museumizations of Migration in Comparative Global Context (Human Architecture: Journal of the Sociology of Self-Knowledge: Volume IX, Issue 4, 2011.) Belmont, MA: Okcir Press (an imprint of Ahead Publishing House).

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