Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Monod museum reopens after pandemic with ‘back on African soil’ exhibition



Monod museum reopens after pandemic with ‘back on African soil’ exhibition

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
The Theodore-Monod museum of art in Dakar reopens after over a year of pandemic-induced closure with a ‘new vision’ and works of art returning to the continent after a long hiatus. AFP

Monod museum reopens after pandemic with ‘back on African soil’ exhibition

The Theodore-Monod museum of art in Dakar reopened after over a year of pandemic-induced closure with a “new vision” and works of art returning to the continent after years.

Visitors will find improvements as well as additions to the already extensive collection.

Built in the early 1930s, the building housed the French Institute for Black Africa – since re-named the Fundamental Institute for Black Africa (IFAN) – before being converted to a museum in 1960 and named for French scientist and explorer Theodore Monod in 2007.

But the current exhibit celebrates Senegalese figure Amadou-Mahtar Mbow, the first African director of UNESCO, who turned 100 years on May 30.

During his tenure as UNESCO chief, Mbow penned “A Plea for the Return of an Irreplaceable Cultural Heritage to those who Created It” in 1978, in which he asked that member states take measures “for the return of cultural property to the countries from which it has been taken”.

‘Unparalleled in Africa’

Curator El Hadji Malick Ndiaye describes the collection at the Theodore Monod Museum “unparalleled in Africa”.

Some of the works were acquired in the 19th century and with IFAN researchers later adding art they collected in the context of their studies: figurines, masks, vessels, cloth, ornamental or live weapons of wood, metal, earth or leather, mainly from West Africa or the Sahel.

Recently arrived from Paris are several works that had been on loan for years to the Quai Branly museum.

“It isn’t a restitution, it’s a return,” explains Ndiaye, “But still, the symbolism is there: these are objects that have returned to African soil.”

At the entrance of the exhibit is an installation made from crates in which artworks are transported – “the symbol of the crossing”, says Ndiaye.

Nearby, a megalith is on display that not so long ago graced the halls of New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
A visitor looks at works of art on display at the Theodore-Monod Museum in Dakar on May 18. AFP

A portrait of Mbow celebrating his centenary hangs in the middle of the exhibit, and his appeal is prominently featured.

“The vicissitudes of history have . . . robbed many peoples of a priceless portion of this inheritance in which their enduring identity finds its embodiment,” it reads.

“The men and women of these countries have the right to recover these cultural assets which are part of their being.”

‘New vision’

Ndiaye laments the fact that the museum’s 9,000 works of art were forced into “invisibility” by the pandemic, as well as the loss of revenue for the IFAN.

But the institute seized on the closure as an opportunity.

“It allowed us to take a long look at the state of the museum,” he says, noting the outdated layout and signage around the exhibition spaces, as well as the rundown gardens.

“Reopening required us to have a new vision of the museum,” he says of the space that was originally built to house Dakar’s district command in the early 1930s.

Improvements have been made to lighting – direct sunlight that once glared in from openings is now being diffused to make detail on the works more visible.

Work carried on up to hours before the public was admitted. In the quest for post-pandemic normalcy, Ndiaye says his museum is “the admiral ship that symbolises the return”.

MOST VIEWED

  • Prince Norodom Ranariddh passes away at 77

    Prince Norodom Ranariddh, the second son of the late King Father Norodom Sihanouk and former First Prime Minister of Cambodia, has passed away in France at the age of 77. “Samdech Krom Preah Norodom Ranariddh has passed away this morning in France just after 9am Paris-time,”

  • Rise in planned flights lifts travel hopes

    Six airlines have applied to resume flights in December, while two others have put in for additional flights and routes, according to State Secretariat of Civil Aviation (SSCA) head Mao Havannall on November 29. These account for 43 new weekly domestic and international flights in December, up 16

  • General’s gun smuggling ring busted

    The Military Police sent six military officers to court on November 22 to face prosecution for possession of 105 illegal rifles and arms smuggling, while investigators say they are still hunting down additional accomplices. Sao Sokha, deputy commander of the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces and commander of

  • Is Cambodia’s travel sector in for another cheerless holiday season?

    The travel and tourism sector was heaving back to life as borders started to reopen, promising a festive vibe for the holidays and New Year. But Omicron and other Covid-related issues are threatening to close the year on a bleak note ‘Seems [like] Covid-19 won’

  • Cambodia, Thailand to discuss border reopening

    Cambodian authorities from provinces along the Cambodia-Thailand border will meet with Thai counterparts to discuss reopening border checkpoints to facilitate travel, transfer of products and cross-border trade between the two countries. Banteay Meanchey provincial deputy governor Ly Sary said on November 22 that the provincial administration

  • Hun Sen: Manet to be candidate for prime minister

    Prime Minister Hun Sen has reaffirmed that his oldest son Hun Manet will be his successor as Prime Minister if he is elected. Speaking during the inauguration of a new sewage treatment facility in Preah Sihanouk province on December 2, Hun Sen said Manet will be