The 29 Jun 2023

The long history of the return of congolese cultural objects : entangled relations between Kinshasa and Tervuren (1930-2022)

Dr. Placide Mumbembele Sanger

First conference as part of NEW PRACTICES FOR CONSIDERING THE FUTURE OF AFRICAN COLLECTIONS: PROVENANCE, DIGITALISATION, RESTITUTION, organised by Felicity Bodenstein. This lecture series is organised by the musée du quai Branly - Jacques Chirac and the National Institute for Art History (INHA).

A long-term perspective on the issue of the return of Congolese cultural objects: entangled relations between Kinshasa and Tervuren (1930 - 2022)

This talk could go back to the origins of the debate over the return of Congolese cultural objects from the Museum of the Belgian Congo in Tervuren to the creation of the Museum of Native Life in Leopoldville in the 1930s, when positions concerning the fate of the objects pitted the "Congolese" Belgians against the metropolitan administration. His work also shows how, on the eve of the Democratic Republic of Congo's independence, the question of the place of the collections was hotly debated. It traces the way in which the issue was dealt with before and after independence, through relations between Congolese and Belgian museum institutions from the 1930s onwards. What was the impact of the restitution issue on political relations between Belgium and Zaire, and what role did museum professionals play in the politico-diplomatic decision-making process? This long perspective provides us with a better understanding and allows us to address more recent initiatives.

Dr Placide Mumbembele Sanger works on the history and management of museums and cultural heritage in a (post)colonial African context, both academically and as an actor in the institutions most concerned, in the Democratic Republic of Congo and in Belgium. He holds a PhD in Political and Social Sciences from the Université Libre de Bruxelles, where he defended a PhD thesis in 2015 entitled Les musées, témoins de la politique culturelle, de l'époque coloniale à nos jours, en République démocratique du Congo (Museums, witnesses of cultural policy, from colonial times to the present day in the Democratic Republic of the Congo). He is also a researcher and teacher, teaching the history of museums in the Congo at the University of Kinshasa. His current focus is on provenance research, but also on the restitution of cultural property between Belgium and the Democratic Republic of Congo, particularly in the context of the negotiations called for by the framework law passed in June 2022. He was head of the Institute of National Museums of the Congo in Kinshasa until September 2022. In 2021 and 2022, he was in residence at the AfricaMuseum in Tervuren, where he chose to work in particular on Yaka masks, which are rarely presented in Congolese collections.


    • Felicity BODENSTEIN, Sorbonne Université, musée du quai Branly - Jacques Chirac


    • Anna GIANOTTI LABAN, musée du quai Branly - Jacques Chirac
  • Duration:  02:00
  • Place:   Salle de cinéma
  • TimeSlots:
    The Thursday 29 June 2023 from 18:00 to 20:00
  • Accessibility:
    • Handicap moteur
  • Public:   Researcher, student
  • Categorie : Seminars
  • Free entry (subject to available places)
    Gratuit (dans la limite des places disponibles)