Why don’t Africans go to Museums?

“Museums for what?” “ Our people have a hundred daily urgent preoccupations to cater of before thinking of going to look at paintings” “What is the use of going to museums after being forced to go there as a student anyways?”

The essence and utility of museums has never been so under-appreciated in an era that ironically is fond of capturing everything it sees. Our societies seem to have grown addicted to instant memory than institutional, national emblems in a building.

Museums in most African countries rhyme with dusty abandoned spaces. Many contractors even tempt museum directors to acquire these spaces usually very well placed in town centers to set new businesses. Why have our leaders abandoned and bypassed the role of museums in societies?

Museums were still very much a respected and enjoyed visiting and exploration place two generations ago with schools and families taking the day to excitingly read scientific names of skulls and read through royal chronologies. This entire heritage used to make them, us proud and assist in seeing where one would want to go as a citizen.

Museums have been depleted and abstracted from their original intent: to showcase the nation’s history, archives and present in a state of well worked restoration and with enough appeal to attract all generations.

Museums in Africa need to adjust to the era and reshuffle their thinking: we do not want to see poorly maintained works or a venue with nothing at all but cobwebs. Museums should never rhyme with destituteness; they must mirror a nation’s bountifulness and make a nation proud. Museum directors you have the responsibility just as much as a president to make citizens proud of their past present and future and represent them at best.

Museums must be dynamic spaces where the history is respectfully restored and showcased and where the present and the future can lead to conversations and engage in further dynamics.

These institutions must be acknowledged as cultural and historical spaces needing managerial and company building mindset, business and culture are not taboo linkages and must unite to succeed. African museum directors need to realize modern museums follow modern laws and must live by vision, strategy and leadership.

How can we let our heritage wither, especially Ghanaians who are so patriot, where do you pride your patriotism if your national place of commemoration is nothing but the shadow of itself?

Authorities must take into consideration the importance for more cultural spaces to flourish among communities and in big cities for several reasons

  • Arts elevates populations and should be made accessible to all
  • Museums and national ones especially are a country’s window to the world and will impact and strengthen a country’s cultural diplomacy. Ghana can become a cultural hub and therefore stimulate revenues in the field of tourism
  • Cultural tourism must be an element in a country’s long term vision as it encompasses so many fields with a significant impact on national GDP.

Let us stop the rigid and destructive misconception of culture not being a factor for development in an economic perspective. Countries like France, Spain and Kenya have boosted their economies thanks to their very strong cultural policies, and vibrant, tourist attractive institutions.

Museums on the continent need to emulate the legend of the phoenix and experience a rebirth from their ashes if they do not want to remain in this painful state of limbo on the verge of oblivion. This rebirth will materialize in the rethinking of the national cultural policy with an inclusive approach: communities their representatives, researches and authorities gathering to discuss the envisioned direction and afterwards massively spreading the vision for citizens to incorporate. Once a main brainstorming is achieved, drawing an action plan and implementation need to take place. I am a firm believer that excellent projects do not need immense funding, they will have the action and support of all possible persons who have adhered and related to the vision explaining the importance to involve as many persons in the policy making process.

If we believe our history, nation’s present and future is worthy for the world to know, let us invest in and re-appropriate our museums and cultural spaces.


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