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Exhibiting intangible heritage in a museum: the Voices of Africa experience

Abstract : Museums are places for education, but they can also offer opportunities for cross-cultural discovery. With a focus on enhancing the impact of our own research, this paper describes the experience of mounting an exhibition at the Musée d’Ethnographie de Bordeaux on the theme Voices of Africa. The aim of this exhibition was to investigate the social, cultural and political aspects of language – oral and written – on the African continent. But how is it possible to display the intangible in a museum exhibition? It poses a real challenge because it requires not only finding ways of exhibiting language itself, but also making visitors feel its impact by associating sound, imagery and objects. How could we share with the public our concerns about the various and complex ways that contemporary African societies have of understanding, organizing, preserving and enhancing language, that most intangible of all aspects of cultural heritage? In these times of identity politics and political tension, conceiving of an exhibition with the theme Voices of Africa required us to dismantle any notion of what is essential to culture, and we did this by means of exhibition designs that were intended to make people to think. That is why we chose to end the tour with a dialogue room in which visitors were asked what Western societies, suffering from strained social relationships even in schools, can learn from concepts and understanding of language that have already demonstrated their effectiveness in the African societies from which they originate.
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Contributeur : Cécile Leguy Connectez-vous pour contacter le contributeur
Soumis le : mercredi 9 août 2017 - 16:53:00
Dernière modification le : mardi 14 juin 2022 - 14:18:28


  • HAL Id : hal-01573499, version 1


Sandra Bornand, Cécile Leguy. Exhibiting intangible heritage in a museum: the Voices of Africa experience. Nordic Journal of African studies, Nordic Africa Research Network, 2016, 25 (3-4), pp.364-384. ⟨hal-01573499⟩



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