Belgian diplomat Bart Ouvry has been appointed as the new head of the AfricaMuseum in Tervuren, Flemish Brabant. Ouvry is a man with extensive knowledge of Africa, having served as the

EU’s ambassador to Mali and the Belgian ambassador to Kenya and Congo. He will take over from Guido Gryseels, the current director-general of the AfricaMuseum, who is retiring. One of Ouvry’s first tasks will be to organize the decolonization of the museum, which has its roots in Belgium’s colonial past.

The AfricaMuseum, located just outside Brussels, is Belgium’s landmark museum, with exhibits that showcase the culture and people of central Africa. It also features natural history exhibits. Ouvry, who describes the museum as “a significant place for any historian,” brings field experience to his new role.

Decolonization is one of the biggest challenges facing the museum, and Ouvry believes that everything that was stolen must be returned to its country of origin if the conditions set out in Belgian law are fulfilled. He plans to work with African partners to define what was stolen and how to deal with these items. According to Ouvry, decolonization is not just about objects; it also involves the way people deal with history and the past.

Ouvry is committed to the process of decolonization and aims to show that Belgium is determined to return artifacts. He believes that it is a broad issue that requires a process of decolonization in people’s minds as well. He acknowledges that it will take many years, but his ambition is to find solutions to the numerous issues involved.

There was speculation about whether a black director-general would be appointed. Ouvry says that the secretary of state who made his appointment did look for a candidate of African origin. He believes that the challenge now is to bring more diversity into the museum to ensure that there are more candidates of African origin in the future. He hopes that the next head of the museum will be a person of African origin.

In addition to his extensive diplomatic experience, Ouvry is a trained historian. He believes that his background will be helpful in his new role at the museum. He describes the AfricaMuseum as a place that has cast a spell on him, but also acknowledges that it will not be an easy job.

The AfricaMuseum has been the subject of controversy in recent years due to its colonial past. The museum was founded by King Leopold II in 1897 as a way of showcasing the Congo Free State, which he personally owned. The museum has come under criticism for its portrayal of Africa and its people, and there have been calls for the museum to be decolonized.

Ouvry’s appointment as the head of the AfricaMuseum is a step towards addressing these issues. His commitment to decolonization and his extensive experience in Africa make him an ideal candidate for the job. He recognizes that decolonization is a complex process that will take time, but his ambition to find solutions to the numerous issues involved is a positive step towards creating a more equitable museum that showcases the culture and people of central Africa in a respectful and accurate manner. Photo by EmDee, Wikimedia commons.