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Abstract

50 years after Congolese Independence was declared on June 30th 1960 with Joseph Kasa-Vubu as President and Patrice Lumumba as Prime Minister, the Tervuren Museum of Central Africa (Brussels), originally built as the “Musée du Congo” by Léopold II, inaugurated the exhibition “Indépendance! Congolese Tell Their Stories of 50 Years of Independence.” This article examines how this event offers a sharp contrast to many Belgian museographic approaches to Belgium’s colonial past and emerges as a groundbreaking step for Belgium in recognizing the devastating effects of its colonial past. The study first analyzes the past of denial experienced by the Congolese community of Belgium to contextualize the Belgo-Congolese dispute and then further analyzes the “Indépendance!” exhibition as a response to the need of museums to embrace non-fixed and creative memory. The exhibit accordingly becomes this contact site in Clifford’s sense, i.e., a place where Belgians, Congolese and Belgo-Congolese people and memories are brought together, and where new meanings can be imaginatively shaped.

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