The new museum replaces several existing centres where officials battled to preserve artefacts in good conditions. Mr Tshisekedi says Congolese treasures in the Belgian AfricaMuseum should be returned but that this should happen gradually as it’s essential everything is kept in good conditions.
The new museum currently houses 400 exhibits from all parts of this gigantic country that help to provide a picture of life, art and culture throughout Congo. The hope is to extend the collection to include items taken to Europe during the colonial period.
Belgium’s AfricaMuseum provides a home to thousands of works of art from the colonial period. Congo was a Belgian colony from 1908 until 1960. Before that it was the personal property of Leopold II, King of Belgians.
President Tshisekedi said: “It’s one thing to request the return of objects, another to preserve them in good conditions. Congo’s heritage must return one day, but this must happen in an organised way.”
The AfricaMuseum reopened last year after a major renovation. Some 120,000 African objects are kept there. Experts have asked for the return of exhibits. In response director Guido Gryseels showed a willingness to discuss such requests “if the legitimate owner comes forward”.
At the time Mr Gryseels identified the new National Heritage Museum in Kinshasa as a legitimate partner, but so far no official requests have been made.