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
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



Artwork by Prachi Joshi, text by Sophia Olivia Sanan, 2024.
When artist Prachi Joshi was commissioned to visualise the intention of the MuseumFutures project ('to test, explore and study potentials for new formats of Southern museology'), Joshi proposed a diptych. The first artwork is an imaginative and experience based leap into the possibilities of what a museum in the Global South could be if the colonial museum was left behind. The second explores the negotiated inheritance of the colonial museum that we are left with.


MuseumFutures makes a case for re-imagination as an active practice in our Global South museum spaces. These spaces can play a key role in the social health of neighbourhoods, can offer respite from the relentless push of capitalist cultures, might offer protection to marginalised memories, become laboratories for ecological sensitivity and practice resistance to authoritarian claims to history. Re-imagination is important not only in museum PR packages and annual reports, but in real time, involving real people. This artwork, and the MuseumFutures project, gestures towards the belief that museums can create (even in small moments) critical spaces that are inclusive, transformative and generative.

Click the image below, and click again to zoom in and pan.
This is the unboxed, experimental museum - whose borders with forests, neighbourhoods, family homes and community halls are fluid. We have offered some clues below to locate stories from the last four years within the image. There are many more nestled into the drawing ... the more you look the more you will see.
MUSEUMS OF KENYA hosted an exhibition which dealt with the recent history of elections marred with chaos, violence and loss of life. It was a first for the museum to conduct field research via the museum staff, around a contemporary issue. The museum collected artefacts and objects associated with this recent history.
Public and common spaces are rare and are under enormous pressure in the neoliberal African cities of today. It is exciting how museums are stepping into the role of community centres and spaces of recreation, creativity and learning.

More specifically, this includes providing spaces of learning in the libraries and resource centres (STEVE BIKO CENTRE, MUSÉE THÉODORE MONOD), relaxation in the gardens and the grounds (NATIONAL MUSEUMS OF KENYA, MUSÉE NATIONAL DE GUINÉE), civil society meetings, weddings and events (UGANDA MUSEUM, NATIONAL MUSEUMS OF KENYA), and photo shoots and even shooting music videos within the museum (YEMISI SHYLLON MUSEUM OF ART).

MUSÉE NATIONAL GUINÉE utilised the practice of digitisation as a form of institutional transformation and community participation. The study group decided to up-skill museum staff members to photograph, research and document objects, images, artefacts and texts, about the Koundara community in the north of Guinee. This is a minority community which has a small demographic and prolific cultural production which the museum wants to celebrate.
ARNA JHARNA: THE THAR DESERT MUSEUM was established in 2000 and was envisioned by Komal Kothari, a folklorist and ethnomusicologist, to exhibit and bring about public engagement with the folk culture and oral traditions he had spent his life documenting in Rajasthan, India.

In keeping with Kothari’s vision for a ‘living museum’, apart from the collection, all aspects of biodiversity, geology and water-harvesting associated with the museum site are part of an interactive learning process—the outside and inside of the museum are interrelated. Marked by a devotion to the natural and organic resources of Rajasthan, the museum pays tribute to the local communities and their local foundations of knowledge, art and culture, which is not a thing of the past, but a resource for rebuilding the present.
THE YEMISI SHYLLON MUSEUM OF ARTS is a Museum of traditional, modern and contemporary African art. The study group conceived of a project that explores multiple narratives and new interpretations of 30 art pieces in the collection, enhancing digital experiences of museum objects and drawing on community participation methods.

Embedded in a university community, the YSMA looks for innovative ways to generate relevance and interest in art to youthful audiences.
MUSEU MAFALALA is founded on principles of social museology and aims in part to document the history of the neighbourhood of Mafalala.

"The museum thinks about the right to the city for peri-urban communities and therefore also discusses aspects related to urban processes in African cities such as gentrification and the impact this phenomenon has on the conservation, preservation and promotion of local cultural heritage and access to art in peripheral spaces" – Ivan Laranjeira, Museu Mafalala
Download Part One, The Experimental Museum, 2024 PDF ︎


So what is the colonial museum?
And how do we transform it, especially if it has come to stand for something 'universal'? 
To what extent can museums re-localise the very concept of the museum? 
Which parts of the inherited museum (in its structure and its implied values) serve us, and which don't?

An early collaborator on the MuseumFutures project, political scholar Mamadou Diallo (who interpreted from French to English in the MFA online sessions), put forward the following provocation after the first year of experimentation, "if we are to persist in caring for and speaking of museums, we might as well make our peace with the fact that there is no such thing as undoing time, nor is there a way to keep the fruit pure of the tree that grew it. Because, really, to care for and speak of museums in contemporary Africa is, even if unwittingly, to speak Greek and invoke Hellenic deities; to persist in a tradition - which is respectable in itself - that came to the continent armed to the teeth".

This drawing is a visualisation of the colonial museum, as representative of a tradition that is armed to the teeth. This way, we might we begin to see the hidden (and normalised) violence in the inherited structure of the museum, and, where radical work and change is most needed.

Click the image below, and click again to zoom in and pan.

Download Part Two, The Colonial Museum, 2024 PDF ︎


Text by Sophia Sanan, 2024. 
In early 2023 we gathered inputs from our 6 new museum partners on the themes that they would like to engage through the year with their colleagues. Their suggestions (see above) ranged from themes of digitisation to Global South solidarities.

Consequently, we planned for a number of virtual exchanges, facilitated by key thinkers and practitioners in their fields (Dr heeten bhagat, Dr Nashilongweshipwe Mushaandja, Dr Sara Ahmed, Sukrit Sen and Molemo Moiloa), to guide a series of dialogues across the very different contexts of the 6 museums on these themes. Scroll down for a series of narrative highlights from these rich dialogues.


In late March 2023 we hosted the first of our workshop series, with scholar, educator and thinker Dr heeten bhagat around documentation in museums. Our planning was inspired by the following questions: ‘What are your documentation practices? What does archiving mean to you? Do you engage with local constituencies? What are some of the complexities you have faced in documenting your work? Who is your documentation for? How does your museum tell stories? What are the mechanisms for communication that you use? What are some of the digital inequities that you face in your work? What are some ways to overcome these? Why is the documentation of history important? What are some of the inter-generational dynamics at play in your community?’

Some of the overlapping questions for Maji Maji museum in Tanzania and the Arna Jharna Museum in Rajasthan, India were around documentation as a form of working with the museum’s surrounding (partly) rural communities. For the Maji Maji, the war memorial and burial grounds under the care of the museum call for innovations in how communities are engaged around painful memories. A challenge they take on is the documentation and celebration of the intangible, along with tangible: “documentation we admire is public engagement in museum activities through oral tradition: methods like festivals, storytelling, and museum interactive programs also digital documentation. This kind of documentation is complex but very safe for the sustainability of the museum collections”.

For the Arna Jharna Museum, it is the artefact that is the entry point to a certain philosophy of documentation which has manifested in the Broom Project of the museum: “an exhaustive study of Rajasthan's different regions and communities. The museum's approach was to contact the broom-User communities of Rajasthan situated in different regions and also explore the botanical diversity of each food zone to form a comparative study. Around one hundred eighty brooms, each unique to their region and functional utility, have been documented in the form of audiovisual and text.” As Kuldeep Kotari notes “(t)he broom may seem to be an ordinary object but it is also a repository of relationships. It not only gave an insight into the variety of grasses used for broom making depending on the type of environment they are made in, but it also made the museum aware of the various traditional values and beliefs around the brooms.”

We also asked: are there existing (or inherited) norms around documentation in your museum context, does any of this represent a frustration? Acervo da Laje’s response was instructive: “No, on the contrary, it represents a victory, because there was no documentation about our territory and now we have it, that is, we went from invisibility to visibility and this is a very important point in community museums, the fact of being able to tell their own stories”. For Museu Mafalala, documentation is inseparable from museum work: “assuming that Documentation is everything that has recorded information, regardless of the format, one can see that the existence of Museums is directly linked to documentation. There is no Museum without documentation. I mean, without registered and exposed information for other times, spaces, and contexts. Besides, in our daily life, as Mafalala Museum, documentation plays a preponderant role in our relationship with the community in which we are inserted. Through murals, photos and other records, the Museum dynamises its relationship with the space, as it produces works and documents that mirror the life of the community”.

The telling of untold narratives in urban settings like Salvador and Maputo is urgent work, and comes with its own set of complexities. We considered struggles with community buy-in and trust with the telling of histories, especially under the guise of the museum. What is repellent about the form of the museum, what is attractive? Who feels represented in the museum? Is the museum our most productive answer to a need to historicise?

Discussion between the Conflictorium in India and the Mutare Museum in Zimbabwe was energised by the radical differences in these museums. One is a non-collecting organisation interested in mediating conversations in conflict conditions, formed in post-colonial India and the other collections based, national and founded pre-independence Zimbabwe. The Conflictorium offered the following reflections on documentation: “other than the memories of people who experience the museum, the museum remembers itself only via documentation. Because of many different kinds of activities taking place at the museum, documentation plays the role of Memory Keeping and for Communicating the happenings at the museum”. For the Mutare Museum, documentation was (to paraphrase) about “accountability of objects, security of objects, a historic archive about objects and finally a mode of referencing and retrieval”.  Some of the productive questions that emerged out of these different approaches were around what is at stake in the recording of history: how is the state implicated in this, how is community defined in history making, how do we think about truth in museums? What is the role of creativity in memorialisation, what are the risks inherent in this process? How do histories of violence affect how we document and who we document for? 


Next in our workshop series, we focussed on ‘Objects, collections and decolonial practice’, with artist, scholar, writer, educator Dr Nashilongweshipwe Mushaandja. We framed the workshop around another core expectation of the museum: to collect and exhibit. The traditional form of the colonial museum placed high stakes on the object as a conduit to represent knowledge about the world ‘out there’. The strategies of aestheticisation, objectification, exoticisation and othering implicit in traditional museum practice are facing scrutiny in the context of calls for decolonisation. At the same time, decolonisation has come to mean many (sometimes contradictory) things, and is perceived and understood differently in diverse contexts.  Some of the museums we are working with are collecting museums, some are not, some are seeking to expand their collections, some are seeking to create new objects in the shape of (changing) traditions, others seek to recontextualise inherited object collections, others still have collected narratives, sounds, and experiences over objects. These varied perspectives came into conversation through this dialogue series. The series of online conversations were used to map out and debate the practices and understandings of decoloniality in each museum via the question of objects and how to (or perhaps how to not) exhibit them.

The Arna Jharna museum from Rajasthan, India and the Mutare museum from Zimbabwe were asked to share an image of an object from the museum that spoke of movement and mobility. For the Mutare museum, they thought about objects in the collection that were transferred from other Museums in Zimbabwe, such as the Traction Engine which was originally displayed in Bulawayo. A central characteristic of the modern museum has been to truncate the circulatory nature of objects, and some would argue, placing moving things into the straight-jacket of objecthood. We wanted to explore ways in which objects in museum environments do move, if at all, and what their movements might represent. As one of the study group members remarked, the history of automotive transport in Zimbabwe itself tells a compelling tale of the afterlives of colonialism and its impacts on human mobility.

For the Arna Jharna museum, the Kamaicha, a folk instrument which was used by the itinerant musician community - Manganiyars, spoke of mobility in a way that contests the violence that borders (which themselves in the post-colonial world are so tied to colonial histories) can represent. They shared with us that the Manganiyar community “used to migrate around the Thar (that includes states of both India and Pakistan) before the partition of India. But in the post-independence period their mobility got restricted on both sides of the border, still their music has been a means of connection for both the countries. This instrument is the embodiment of musical values of both India and Pakistan”. 

Nashilongweshipwe invited thinking around decoloniality as a project of actualising freedom, using artworks such as this linocut by John Muafangejo to visualise what we mean by this very powerful and sometimes nebulous term. He shared some projects and experiences from Namibia, and the struggle to raise suppressed narratives and experiences into the public realm through the notion of ‘shadow work’. The diversity in our participants’ approaches to decolonial work were expressed in some of the keywords that came to mind via the question of decoloniality: ‘caste’ and ‘translations’ on the one hand ‘indigenous’ and ‘heritage’ on the other. These diverse approaches produced many generative questions. Partners from Conflictorium asked “do ethnographic museums need to be abolished for actual decolonising in museums? can we abandon the decolonial project for a more vernacular and contextualised framework? is speculative work the only possibility of subverting archives? where do we encounter colonial residues/tendencies in museums besides language and curation?”

Acervo da Laje and Museu Mafalala are two museums in very different parts of the world who engage with the histories of very specific urban neighbourhoods, one in Salvador, Brazil the other in Maputo, Mozambique. When thinking about collection and decoloniality in these contexts, it is more than the collection of objects that these museums are pursuing. Instead, the under-documented histories of these spaces and the expression of their protagonists - often women and youth whose impact is not so easily made on official national historical narratives - these form the impetus to remember and archive in a collective way. Both museums shared footage and photographs of their neighbourhoods that related to the origin stories of the institutions. These are images that are not asking to be read through the lens of documentary nor of art - instead as Jose Eduardo from Acervo da Laje insists - the practice of memorialisation at the heart of Acervo da Laje is constantly in a battle to protect itself from appropriation by academic institutions, by the conventions of the artworld, by national narratives. What we explored in this conversation is that ‘museum-making’ can itself be an activity that works against (and speaks back to) colonial afterlives and logics.


The hosts of our third Southern Museology workshop were Dr Sara Ahmed and the wonderful Sukrit Sen from the Living Waters Museum from India. This brilliant hybrid museum project: “results from a personal and institutional inquiry into the future and relevance of museums beyond borders, the nuances of measuring impact and the value of building inclusive, collaborative partnerships which address social equity and gender justice through research, design and curation (…) As a digital museum, we are more than just a website -over the past 6 years we have built programming around water classrooms, climate resilience, water heritage, public health and changing urban waterscapes. The use of digital technologies and art, broadly defined, allows us to re-imagine museums, creating sensory experiences and ‘playful’ solutions towards societal transformation, bringing science to people while acknowledging their water wisdom and agency”.

To address the theme of climate crisis and museums in the Museum Futures project, the LWM created a format to “engage with participants to develop a storyboard based on a ‘water’ challenge/issue that the communities the museums work with, or their partners and stakeholders, are facing. How can we facilitate a dialogue through storytelling, using digital media and/or the arts, towards the collective ‘good’, while recognizing and acknowledging the voices of those at the margins?”. LWM asked museum participants to send a story or short text about water in their locality. The texts were used as a basis to think together about a fictional story, which was narrativized and visualised by the workshops hosts together with the participants. We share here the diverse stories that pointed to the myriad ways that water (in its lack, in its over-abundance, in its generosity, in the project of trying to conserve or control) shapes our social, geographic and cultural existence.

The Mutare museum reflected on the various religious, industrial, agricultural and economic roles of water in the Mutare region of Zimbabwe. This led to a discussion around rain and its importance, and the role of wildlife in helping to understand seasonal patterns. What are indigenous ways of knowing that may be relevant to radically shifting climatic patterns? What is the role of the museum in this regard? Chiedza Zharare shared with us that “Mutare Museum is taking part in awareness campaigns in regards to climate change, mining and environmental threats posed by illegal mining. This was done through a temporary exhibition on diamond mining in Chiadzwa area in Manicaland. Currently we have developed an exhibition on cyclone Idai looking at how the floods changed lives of the local communities in a negative way as well as creating awareness on water disaster preparedness.”

The Arna Jharna museum shared fascinating case studies of water related projects in their museum environment. The scarcity of water in the desert environment has sprung innovation over decades. The Arna Jharna acts both as a repository of ‘lost’ methods and a laboratory for future water saving strategies, engaging traditions of indigenous knowledge with a changing climate. Kuldeep Kothari explained: “(i)n the arid landscapes of rural Rajasthan, water has been the lifeblood of communities for generations. Rajasthan, known for its vast deserts and semi-arid climate, has faced water scarcity challenges for centuries. However, the ingenuity and wisdom of the local communities have led to the development of various time-tested water conservation techniques that ensured the availability of water not just for daily needs but also allowed agriculture and livestock rearing to thrive in this challenging environment. Arna Jharna: The Thar Desert Museum situated on the one of hills of aravalli range in the outskirts of Jodhpur city, the capital of erstwhile the Kingdom of Marwar, has documented and fully utilised this traditional knowledge system in its museum space.”

Members from the Conflictorium in Raipur, Chhattisgarh shared some projects related to the Karun river in Raipur and pointed to complex issues around human habitation and ecological stability:  "Civilizations have bloomed around water. For landlocked areas like Chhattisgarh, that meant habitations springing up near rivers. When the habitations spread, the villages, towns and cities populated around ponds, some natural and some man made. Geographically, Chhattisgarh is populated with lakes and ponds. Every village, every hamlet across the state has access to at least one pond which is used perennially for personal, religious, social and political purposes. While the trend is slowly dying in the cities, urbanisation and the surge of building high rises to accommodate the burgeoning population are eating up these small water bodies that are an important part of the social fabric."

For Acervo da Laje, Jose Eduardo shared some context from the coastal city of Salvador in Bahia, Brazil: “(h)ere we have the sea and the tide. The sea offers us the beaches for leisure and the tide offers us, the mangroves, the sustenance of seafood such as shellfish, crabs and crabs.  In the old days there were pearl oysters in the tide. Whoever found them and had them at home needed to put a little salt on them so they wouldn't disappear, the old-timers used to say. In the 1970s the Reconcavo Chemical Company poured iodine into the tide and as the iodine went to the bottom, it polluted the shellfish. Today, we remember so that mistakes like this no longer exist”

For the Maji Maji Memorial Museum, the theme of water runs deep into the history of the site: “Maji Maji Memorial Museum talks about the impact of Germany's colonial resistance against the natives. The war was known as “Maji Maji war” - this translates to Water war. During the Majimaji war, water was used as the main ingredient in making a medicine that the local resistance bathed in as repellent to German bullets. Majimaji war started at Nandete-Kilwa district Lindi, Mtwara, Dar es Salaam, Pwani, Iringa, Mororgoro and ended in Ruvuma. The war involved more than twenty tribes includes; Ngindo, Luguru, Matumbi, Zaramo, Pogoro, Ngoni, Bena, Ndendeule, Matengo, Makonde, Mwera, Makua, Manda, Nindi, Mpoto, Sangu, Kinga, Pangwa, Rufiji, Ndengeleko, Vidunda, Mbunga  and Hehe. The war was guided by African chiefs including chief, Mputa Bin Gwazerapas Gama, Sultan Seleman Mamba, Mkechekeche of matumbi, Hamad of Makonde, Chief Hatia of Makua, Jumbe Mbuu, Kibasila of zaramo, Mpangire of Ubena and Ngozingozi”.

Sharing a story about flooding in the urban area of Mafalala, Maputo, surfaced a host of questions around natural disasters and the keeping of memories. What survives a flood, and what kind of tangible memories (photos, books, diaries, sentimental objects) are lost through such trauma, and what is the consequence? Rui Laranjeira - historian and writer associated with Mafalala museum shared that in researching the neighbourhood's history, he found that many people lost personal archives of photos etc through the 1965 flood, leaving a vacuum in documentation of that time.

“In Mafalala there was a time when the neighborhood was flooded and it led to many of the original inhabitants having to leave the neighborhood and live in other neighborhoods. This happened in 1965, and there was a heavy rain that left the neighborhood flooded and caused many people to to come to Infulene, Machava and Matola - Fomento and also there were those who came back after the space had dried up. As a consequence of this rain I lost my documentation and pictures from the period. I had to go and live with my family in an uncle's house for a period of 2 months. It was interesting”.


Possibly one of the most politically resonant themes around museums today, Africa and the story of restitution is a theme that we engaged our African museum partners on in a special online session. The session was hosted by Molemo Moiloa  -  a prolific voice in African restitution debates and one of the MuseumFutures project founders. The session provided a platform for discussion on both institutional and lived perspectives about restitution and perhaps more critically, the actual process of return in African museums. Members from Uganda Museums, Musee Guinee, YSMA in Nigeria, National Museums of Kenya, the Steve Biko Foundation, the Maji Maji museum and the Mutare Museum participated in this lively dialogue.

One of the things we spoke about during our special session on Restitution in African Museums were the differences between Restitution, Return, Reparations and Repatriation. These terms can become conflated in surprising ways. Putting it really simply, Maji Maji museum colleagues clarified:

  1. Return is to come or go back to its place
  2. Repatriation is to return to one’s country
  3. Reparation is to act or repairing or restoring
  4. Restitution is the act of restoring or making good

We gained much clarity by analysing these terms and in which cases which term is most relevant. We thought about who (people, countries, institutions) is involved in creating precedence in this field and how African museums might strengthen their position(s) on the debates around Africa’s stolen cultural heritage. Some of our participants shared the following thoughts: “return, moral, rights, research, provenance, veiled histories, veiled narratives, restoration, respect, heritage, rightful owners, our things, bring back, benin bronzes, justice, recovery, cultural heritage”.

Our host Molemo Moiloa brought home the urgency of African museums talking to each-other about what we think / feel/ imagine/ desire / dream/ wish should and could happen in the years to come, to the estimated 90-95% of African material cultural heritage that has been removed from the continent. Meetings between African museum professionals on this topic are all too rare, as the field of cultural restitution is usually framed through Euro-African engagements, and around the possible return of objects. What became clear in this workshop, is that the return of objects is only one part of a very complex story. One of the key spaces for African museums to share experiences and learn from each-other, is around relationships and responsibilities between museums and source communities whose objects, histories and stories end up in museums - whether on the continent or much further afield. 


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 ︎


Nashilongweshipwe Mushaandja (steering committee member, facilitator and project conceptualiser) and Sophia Olivia Sanan (project manager). Furthermore, we would like to thank: Tatiana Page, Rebecca Corey and Abiti Nelson (curriculum advisors for version one), Vumile Mavumengwana (logo and brand design), Graeme Arendse (design and layout), Chao Maina Tayiana and Patrick Mudekereza (specialised sessions), and Alassane Diallo and Amadou Kethiel Kebe (translations).

The MuseumFutures Africa curriculum is now in its second iteration, the first was developed over many months from 2020 - 2021 and was responsive to the needs and experiences of the first group of museum practitioners that used the curriculum with their respective study groups. Numerous project partners and collaborators gave inputs at different moments into this curriculum which thus reflects a collective work output. And we intend that it is further utilised and modified according to local contexts.

The idea behind this open-source curriculum is that any museum (or cultural organisation) can utilise this document as the guideline for a series of group workshops focused on identifying spaces for institutional change. The eight sessions work through a number of themes, and aim to strengthen a collective process, culminating in a session that plans a tangible practical museum project. The 2023 curriculum is available in Portuguese and English, while the 2021 curriculum is available in French and English. 
Download the 2023 MFA Curriculum, English PDF ︎
Descarregar o currículo do MFA 2023, Português PDF ︎ 


Written by Abiti Nelson, Tatiana Page, Rebecca Corey, graphic design by Vumile Mavumengwana.

The initial MFA curriculum commissioned by the project office was designed by Africa-based practitioners, Abiti Nelson from Uganda, Tatiana Page from South Africa, and Rebecca Corey from Tanzania. The methods and activities explored encourage experimentation with new ways of collecting, researching, mediating, and engaging society. The curriculum was designed to be useful and use-able by institutions across the continent.
Module 1 in english PDF ︎
Module 1 en français PDF ︎
Module 2 in english PDF ︎
Module 2 en français PDF ︎
Module 3 in english PDF ︎
Module 3 en français PDF ︎