My visit to Quai Branly Museum: Precolonial African Art

Updated: Jan 15

The Quai Branly museum located in Paris, France, is renowned for housing pre-colonial African sculptures and artworks. The home of these sculptures and artworks is far from Paris, and we will always have question over the right for our treasures to be stored in a place where people make money from letting other westerners, who have no connection to the artefacts, bask in their beauty, and benefit from using them as an attraction of their land. The rightful owners have absolutely no access to them.

Nonetheless, after referring to this museum in one of my previous articles titled 'Africa's Stolen Artefacts: Misuse in Museums', this place quickly became high on my 'to visit' list. I wanted to see them with my own eyes, to be able to show others. And just as I expected before I arrived, the experience was worth it and the adrenaline rushed through me. I thought I would share the images I took from my visit and also just recollect that part of my trip on here briefly.

I visited on the 19th September, 2021, on the last day of my solo trip to Paris that I took last month.

Nearest metro station: Iena, Trocadero

Opening times: Mon - Sun - 11am - 7pm

Cost of entry: €12

I was required to show ID on entry also.

I think it's important to add this here, visiting this museum was high on my wish list, but it was definitely a bitter sweet experience. These aren't just any artefacts, these are pre-colonial African pieces of culture and history; captured, and behind glass for the gawk of those who relate the very least to it. Most people would equate visiting a prestigious museum in Paris as a privilege, but I felt like I was just soul searching. Writing about it enraged me but seeing it is different. I don't want to sound like I'm exaggerating, but the experience was as surreal as I expected it to be.

Once I entered, I could not contain my excitement to see the African art, of which they have an entire wall that stretches across the back of the museum for. I was amazed, and admired art from Southern to Northern Africa, and everywhere in-between. I took some images of some of my favourite pieces there and labelled them to make it easier for everyone viewing them to know what they are and where they originate from, which I will place at the bottom of the article.

I reflect back on one moment in particular, where I came across a room in the 'Africa' back wall of the museum as I ended up in the Congo Basin section. The room was simply named 'Protective Spirits', I did not really pay much attention to the description underneath as I knew how profound the contents of that room was. I remember bracing myself before walking in for some reason, and checking behind my shoulder to see if any other spectators were coming in after me, because I wanted to see it alone. Walking into the dark, pitch black and silent display room, I saw sculptures, masks, totems, things that were inherently connected to my being. I was not personally familiar with any of the artefacts in the room, because I don't explore traditional religion practices, but it still made me feel fulfilled in some way - just being in there. I was alone, in the pitch black room with these artefacts staring back at me, faces that represent ancestral spirits that existed way before my time, but I wasn't frightened. In that moment, I felt whole.

I have included some labelled images of art from the following places across the continent: Angola, Congo Basin, Gabon, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Ethiopia, Nigeria, Ghana, Ivory Coast (I tried to capture as much as I could while being there, but I could have stayed there all day). Enjoy the images below! They look even more breathtaking in real life.

Check out my blog post from last year for more background on the Quai Branly Museum and the quest to return African art to its rightful owners. Read Africa's Stolen Artefacts: Misuse in Museums here now!

For sources, you can now visit Refss - our brand new online library where you can access various resources for references. I've made it easier and more convenient for you to locate a wide range of resources for your own pan-African research purposes...🏆

*Note: You'll be asked to sign up/ sign in to the site before you access it, but that takes less than 10 seconds!

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Thanks for reading.

- SS


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