MuseumFutures Africa is a people-centered cultural project focussed on museums. It began with a focus on Africa, and expanded its reach to museums across the Global South, with the intention to test, explore and study potentials for new formats of Southern museology.

Study Groups
Arna Jharna Thar Desert Museum
The Conflictorium
Mutare Museum
MajiMaji Museum
Acervo de Laje
Museu Mafalala
Exchanges 2023
Musée National de Guinée
National Museums of Kenya
Steve Biko Centre
Uganda Museum
Yemisi Shyllon Museum of Art
Musée Théodore Monod
Exchanges 2021-2
Southern Museology
Towards a depiction of ... the experimental / colonial museum
MFA publication 2022
Curriculum 2023
Curriculum 2021
Notes toward a proposal

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MuseumFutures is supported by the     Goethe-Institut



Edited by Sophia Sanan with essays by Dr Njoki Ngumi, Molemo Moiloa, Flower Manase, Nashilongweshipwe Mushaandja, Dr Asma Diakité, Dr Nadine Siegert, Rainer Hauswirth, Dr heeten bhagat, Chao Tayiana Maina and Mamadou Diallo. Translated by Alassane Diallo, proofreading by Lee Helme, design and co-edited by francis burger. MuseumFutures Africa 2021-2 Study groups (Musée National de Guinée, National Museums of Kenya, Steve Biko Centre, Uganda Museum, Yemisi Shyllon Museum of Art, Musée Théodore Monod d’Art Africain IFAN/Cheikh Anta Diop), 2022.
“This publication reflects on two years of work conducted by the MuseumFutures Africa collective. The collective included six museums from South Africa, Kenya, Guinea, Senegal, Nigeria, and Uganda and a cohort of contributors and facilitators from Tanzania, Uganda, Namibia, DRC, Côte d’Ivoire and South Africa. The project emerged out of a series of cross-continental conversations in Africa about museums, which itself was part of a larger project (supported by the Goethe-Institut) of rethinking the 21st century museum from a multiplicity of embedded and localised perspectives in Africa, South Asia, Northern Europe, and Latin America.

Critical friends and collaborators in the project have offered essays, which reflect on the MuseumFutures Africa project model as well as its founding ideas and implications. Postcards found in the book [and scattered across the digital version] invite the reader to consider moments, experiments, and musings from the museum participants. The three pull-out posters tell the story of the last two years through key milestones and practical and discursive outcomes of the museum study groups’ collective work.

The project conceptualisers, facilitators and participants shared two assumptions: that museums on the continent require (urgent) change to remain relevant to future generations and that museum workers are key agents in imagining and implementing this change. The project drew on ideas of temporality as a way to address deep rooted resistance to change in museums. It sought to create a “temporary mobility - a space of change and movement, not of one time or other but rather another implied centre” from which museum workers could collectively “test, explore and study potentials for new formats of African museology”.

Participating museums were invited to gather regularly (twice a month for over a year) in an unfamiliar structure (a study group in which existing roles and hierarchies were unimportant) to think and work together. It was hoped that this formation, which could rupture the status quo of museum order from an organisational and human resources perspective, would create an epistemic opening through which new thinking and practice could emerge ...”

—from the preface by Sophia Sanan, 2022. 
“Nashilongweshipwe Mushaandja: So, we came together. We met in May 2019 and in January 2020, just before the pandemic. MuseumFutures Africa was conceptualised in these meetings. There was a need to develop a project or space that would address long-standing and emerging questions, challenges and issues that African museums were facing. The project came out of a series of Museum Conversations that had taken place in Rwanda, Burkina Faso, Ghana, Nigeria, Tanzania, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Namibia and others. We were interested in the conceptual development and futures of African museums. One of the most striking issues from Museum Conversations was the argument that museums are dead spaces. And of course, that’s contested, that’s arguable. But that was one of our points of departure: to think about and mobilise imagination. And to see how we can forge and support a trans-national network and engaged practice.

Flower Manase: I’m not far from Mushaandja’s ideas. I remember all these discussions that were happening. The previous Museum Conversations were somehow dominated by European experts. And we asked, what is the position of African experts, and what is the position of the African museum, considering the museum’s colonial background? Because the ongoing debates appeared to reproduce Eurocentric ideas into African museums. So the newly proposed idea following the series of Museum Conversations was to start a project by African experts in South, East and West Africa which involved African thinking and creative ideas that enhance day-to-day museum activities on the one hand, and on the other, resolve the aforementioned colonial inherited problems in museums. So that’s how the MuseumFutures Africa project was conceived, from conceptual writing to implementation by African museums and African experts. But the question was, which museums would participate in the project? So, it became about how to create a call to museums for the MuseumFutures project; how to create an interesting and intentional project curriculum that directed participating museum groups to discuss and seek creative solutions to museum challenges, while attracting communities into museum spaces.

Molemo Moiloa: Yeah, I think that was an important point; also, in the sense that museums around the world are now struggling with these kinds of decolonisation-type questions, it has become like the urgency of the moment. But we need to recognise that African museums, or museums from colonial contexts, have been asking themselves these questions for quite a long time. And that  to some degree, older generations of museum practitioners often say, “Oh, we’ve been discussing this forever.” But then the question becomes “okay, but now, what do you do about it?” Right?

And I think that a vital part of this project was really giving museums space, time and money to focus their attention on what to do about these questions. How do we make them real? How do we practice, rather than just talk? One of the things that I think was really important in how we constructed the project – which has also ended up being very chaotic, but I think in a good way – was this idea that each museum has to be able to define that for themselves. So instead of producing a cookie-cutter project, where each museum is instructed to do something specific, museums have to articulate from their own context, from their own needs, from their own historical trajectories and inheritances, what they need to do. And I think that’s a very particular decision that required a lot more administration and logistical work.

Flower Manase: I remember during the discussion with Mushaandja and Khwezi [Gule], especially during the conceptual writing of the project document, they were trying to emphasise that we should not control the output or the results of the project. Instead, we should let the project become fluid and take whatever form it is going to take, because each and every person has their own conception of the museum. The idea behind this was a kind of artistic approach, or artistic impression, that we should let the museum manifest whatever they are, and then from there, should know how to go about change. And the other idea was to allow the critical input and encourage it among the museum participants’ groups, particularly the external group [communities], throughout the project, that we should allow these critical inputs, whether within the steering committee, the study groups or cultural experts who are involved.

Nashilongweshipwe Mushaandja: Maybe that’s where the idea of a study developed. That’s when we thought that learning and practice might generate different ways in which each museum could pay attention to its conceptual development. Although we did not explicitly frame the project as a decolonial project, our critical questions were pointing towards decoloniality – a long-standing and re-emerging question in African museums. It seemed to me, it looked, it felt to me, as if we were setting up some kind of critical pedagogy project. I am aware of the limits of critical pedagogy. We were thinking about the role of mobility in conceptualising an African museum. I think mobility is very important, considering how objects move, or how the museum is not only the building but that there’s a public, a community, and there’s an exchange all the time. We were thinking about a study that is process-based, rather than trying to control the outcome. The trans-temporality was suggested as a characteristic of African cultural production, pointing us to the question of time as not linear, but rather complex, and so forth ...”

—From the essay ‘From radical trust – a conversation on ways of working with museums’, Molemo Moiloa, Flower Manase, Nashilongweshipwe Mushaandja, 2022
Download the MuseumFutures Africa essays, digital version, English, 2022 PDF ︎
Télécharger les essais MuseumFutures Africa, version numérique, Français, 2022 PDF ︎


Download the MuseumFutures Africa posters (’study group projects’ and ‘journeys and genealogies’), English, 2022 PDF ︎

Télécharger les affiches MuseumFutures Africa (’projets du groupe d'étude’ et ‘voyages et généalogies’), français, 2022 PDF ︎