New publication by Koen Vlassenroot: Strenghtening African-european connections

(07-05-2021) Sharing past and future

Conscious of the need to reflect on how to revise our reading of the past and strengthen future African-European connections , the Royal Museum for Central Africa and Egmont–Royal Institute for International Relations organised a conference titled ‘Sharing Past and Future: Strengthening AfricanEuropean Connections’. Over 50 international speakers shared their thoughts, critiques and views during a three-day conference held at the Royal Museum for Central Africa and the Royal Library of Belgium in Brussels from 17 to 19 September 2018. Held prior to the reopening of the AfricaMuseum (after a five-year reorientation and renovation period), the conference offered a forum for African and European academics, activists, artists, politicians and other stakeholders to critically reflect on how Africans and Europeans could cooperate in a shared and sustainable way in the future. In his introduction to the conference, Guido Gryseels, Director General of the AfricaMuseum, emphasised that today, ‘we take distance from colonialism as a system of governance as it is a system which is based on military occupation, exploitation and imposition of white superiority, even racism. We distinguish colonialism as a system from the valuable contributions of individuals who often worked in the colony with great idealism and devotion. We try to decolonise the museum, but not only by providing a much more critical view of the colonial past, but more in general how we look, deal and work with Africa.’

Many of the voices, critiques, statements and ideas expressed during the three-day conference are brought together in this collection of essays.  We are convinced that this collection will further stimulate the ongoing debate. The eclectic nature of the contributions in this volume shows that prominent voices agree to disagree about the modalities of restitution, the politics of memory, the legacy of colonialism, and the nature of future AfricanEuropean connections. While there are no clear-cut answers or solutions to the challenges identified and reconfirmed during the conference, each contribution should be considered an invitation and stimulus to scrutinise existing AfricanEuropean connections critically, and contribute to a true decolonisation and redrafting of these connections on the basis of equity, respect and solidarity