National Museum of Mali, Bamako, Mali
Founded in 1953, the Sudanese Museum was part of the Institut Français d’Afrique Noire (IFAN), an organization in charge of studying culture of the African countries ruled by French colonialism. Following the country’s independence in 1960, the museum became the National Museum of Mali, with the goal of collecting, conserving, and promoting Mali’s cultural and artistic heritage. Today, the museum aims to cover the country’s history and culture including archeology, ethnography, and contemporary art. It has more than 6,000 artworks including a unique textile collection as well as photography, video, and paintings acquired from various African artists. Since its extension in 2003, the Mali National Museum hosts permanent and temporary exhibitions which are open to the public, and houses a laboratory, workshops and storerooms. The museum also presents regular portions of the African Photography Encounters, a biennial of photography.
IFAN Museum of African Arts, Dakar, Senegal
The IFAN Museum of African Arts was established in 1938 and part of the Institut Français d’Afrique Noire (IFAN). As one of the oldest art museum in West Africa, it houses some of the most important collections of well-preserved artefacts from that region. The first floor of the museum hosts a permanent exhibition of various art pieces from all aspects of traditional life including ancient weaponry, tapestry, clothes, masks, and musical instruments. The second floor of the museum houses temporary exhibitions of contemporary art including sculpture, painting, photography, video, and mixed media. The museum regularly hosts parts of the Dakar Biennale, presenting contemporary art by artists from Africa and its diaspora. The museum was successively renamed IFAN Cheick Anta Diop in 1986, after the renowned historian, and Théodore Monod African Art Museum in 2007, after the former director of IFAN.
Sierra Leone National Museum, Freetown, Sierra Leone
The Sierra Leone National Museum was initially opened in 1957 as the Museum of the Sierra Leone Society, a society whose members included mainly colonial expatriates and people of Freetown’s Krio elite. In contrast to the national museums of Ghana and Nigeria, which opened in the same year, Sierra Leone’s museum was modest in scale. It passed into state ownership in 1967 and is now run by the Ministry of Tourism and Cultural Affairs. The museum houses a collection of historical and cultural artefacts including drums, swords, and clothes in its permanent exhibitions, and contemporary art in its temporary exhibitions. Since 2009, the museum has hosted a series of bi-annual workshops in partnership with the British Museum. That partnership also gave birth to an innovative project that aims to improve access to information about the collections and heritage of the country. As a result, the museum now presents new displays in its permanent galleries.
National Museum of Ghana, Accra, Ghana
The National Museum of Ghana was opened in 1957 as part of the country’s independence celebrations. It is the oldest and largest of the nine museums operated by the Ghana Museums and Monuments Board (GMMB). The museum holds a notable collection of objects in archaeology, ethnography, and traditional art, which represent Ghana’s cultural history including musical instruments, pottery, and textiles. There are also objects from other African countries such as Zulu wooden figures, Senfu masks, Bushongo carvings, and Ife bronze heads, presented in the permanent exhibition. In addition, the museum hosts temporary exhibitions of contemporary art, presenting paintings, photographs, and sculpture from local and continental artists. The National Museum of Ghana also has a partnership with the British Museum, which organize training workshops focusing on core activities such as collections care, documentation, and display.
Nigerian National Museum, Lagos, Nigeria
Established in 1957, the Nigerian National Museum was founded by the British archaeologist Kenneth Murray. It has a large collection of archeological, ethnographical, and traditional arts representing the Nigerian culture and history. The permanent exhibition presents artifacts from the Nok culture such as terracotta sculptures, ceramics, and stone tools. It also displays several traditional objects such as royal crowns, symbols carved in ivory, and set of furniture. The museum operates a non-profit crafts centre, which stocks a good range of batik cloth, woodcarvings and textiles at fixed prices. It also houses temporary exhibitions of contemporary art including photography, painting, and sculpture by African artists. The National Museum often hosts workshops and conferences, as well as touring exhibitions in partnership with other international art museums.