In 2009, US President Barack Obama brought international attention to Cape Coast Castle as part of his trip to Ghana. It brought back sad memories over the transatlantic slave trade and Ghana’s colonial history. There are many other relics of artistic, cultural, historic and scientific relevance worth seeing in Africa. In this piece, I will take you on a tour of five of the most iconic museums that have survived to retell Africa’s momentous history.
The Apartheid Museum – Johannesburg, South Africa
Located close to downtown Johannesburg, the Apartheid Museum is much respected for its focus on the systems of racial discrimination that struck the Umbrella Nation from 1948 until the year of its first fully democratic elections. Visitors at the Apartheid Museum are met with real reflections of life in the racially segregated society, when South Africa’s black majority always was made to feel insecure and severely degraded. The museum shows the stark reality of how racial segregation degrades the fiber of any nation where it is practiced.
The IFAN Museum of African Arts – Dakar, Senegal
The IFAN Museum of Arts remains one of West Africa’s oldest art museums. Developed under the leadership of Senegal’s first president, Léopold Senghor, the museum was later renamed after one of its former directors, French naturalist Théodore Andre Monod. The IFAN houses some of the most important artwork of French-speaking West Africa and also serves as a site for Dakar’s biennial art show.
Elmina Slave Castle – Elmina, Ghana
Recognized by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) as a World Heritage Site, the Elmina Castle (also known as Mina in present-day Elmina) is documented as the maiden entry point of trade along the Gulf of Guinea and also one of the most important stops on the transatlantic slave trade route. The Ghana Tourism Authority reports that the historic site attracts thousands of tourists each week who come seeking to understand how it felt to be enslaved inside its walls.
Nigerian National Museum — Lagos, Nigeria
Founded in 1957, this is the most visited museum in Nigeria. Its collection of Nigerian art features statues and carvings as well as archaeological exhibits. One of its most popular features is the terracotta human head known as the Jemaa Head, produced by the Ancient Nok civilization between 900 and 200 BC.
National Museum of Fine Arts (Musée National des Beaux Arts) – Algiers, Algeria
The National Museum of Fine Arts stands out as one of the largest and best museums in North Africa. It houses a wide collection of sculpture, ceramics and photographs from several centuries, including the famous miniatures of Algierian painter Mohammed Racim. It is clear to see that the country is proud of its history and architectural grandeur.