AfricaMuseum Belgium becomes the property Congo

The AfricaMuseum in Tervuren, Belgium, owns Congo of all museum pieces that have been demonstrably obtained illegally. In an interview with De Standaard, Secretary of State Science Policy Dermine says he wants to say goodbye to symbol politics.

It‘s not ours, point. Whether or not there are opportunities to preserve the heritage in Congo has no impact on ownership, says Dermine. The AfricaMuseum keeps everything in custody until Congo calls back pieces to make the transfer run orderly.

The museum has a controversial history. It originated from King Leopold II’s collection, who had had Congo colonial with hard hand in a personal capacity. After a renovation, three years ago more attention came to the dark side of the collection.

Congolese President Tshisekedi asked Belgium in 2019 at the opening of a National Heritage Museum in Kinshasa to return the art of predatory. Big steps so far hadn‘t been taken in that.

Sbooty of War

Dermine now says that everything that has been robbed, obtained as a loot of war or violently deprived of war, is legally owned by Congo. This involves 883 pieces, 1 percent of the collection. This includes items from General Storms’ collection, which suppressed the population of the Central African country for Leopold.

A bilateral committee will also investigate the 35,000 pieces whose origins are less clear. Dermine says that this will pay attention to the unequal power relations in the colony: if a piece was forcibly donated or sold far below the price, it will be considered unlawful. There are no sacred houses.


In recent years, the return of predatory art from former colonies has become increasingly negotiable for museums in the West. For example, President Macron said he wanted to take steps, talk about the return of masterpieces, and the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam is also doing research.

Many concrete steps have not yet achieved this: only one object went back from the Netherlands last year. Culture Minister Van Engelshoven took the advice last year that our country should return robbed object.