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 ︎