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Ivory Coast’s African art museum gets new lease of life

ABIDJAN – It has been buffeted by the pendulum swing of domestic politics and suffered looting that left it without some of its most precious items.

But Ivory Coast’s Museum of Civilisations is now back and determined to recover its place as one of the richest museums of African art in the world — a place of “incomparable wealth,” as Senegal’s late poet-president Leopold Sedar Senghor said in a 1971 visit.

Looted four decades later during a political and military showdown, the museum shut its doors for a two-year refurbishment, reopening in July with redecorated rooms, modern lighting and a new conference centre, restaurant and garden.

The first exhibition since the renovation is rightfully called “Renaissance.”

It places the spotlight on a selection of a hundred of the museum’s finest pieces, from the palaeolithic era to contemporary art.

“We can consider ourselves lucky to have such a beautiful collection,” museum director Silvie Memel Kassi told AFP.

“It’s an asset – a collection of 15,000 pieces from across every region.”

But she still mourns the pillage that occurred in 2011, during a post-electoral time of anarchy in the Ivorian economic capital, Abidjan, that claimed some 3,000 lives.

“That really left us with a bitter taste in the mouth,” she said. “The items that were looted (120 items) were major works: sacred pieces, objects made of wax… Our estimate is that almost four billion CFA francs (six million euros)” were lost, Memel Kassi said. Read more

2018-10-23T20:01:39+00:00