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Bonka Circus helped reopen the AfricaMuseum in Tervuren

11 December 2018

Belgium’s Africa Museum reopened to the public on Sunday December 9 after five years of renovations designed to modernize the museum. Leuven MindGate member Bonka Circus ensured it reopened in style.


On December 9th, the renewed AfricaMuseum in Tervuren reopened its doors after having been closed for five years for a thorough renovation. In the opening marketing and communication campaign - set up by Bonka Circus - you get the chance to browse through the museum’s collection to choose a piece for yourself. A piece with which you feel a personal connection, one which touches you. A piece that illustrates the story you would like to share about Africa or the AfricaMuseum itself.

"On MyAfricaMuseum.com, everyone gets the chance to create their own 'My AfricaMuseum', by picking one single piece out of more than 800 items and sharing the story it represents," says Bram Vandenbroeck from Bonka Circus. "At MyAfricaMuseum.com you can find hundreds of stories: from employees, scientists, and partners, from people of all ages, representing every corner of our society. Some well-known personalities from both parts of our country set the example as Friends of the Museum: Coely, Eric Kabongo, Marie Daulne, Vincent Kompany, Bart Peeters, David Van Reybrouck, Cécile Djunga, Christophe Deborsu, Pierre Kroll, and Ronny Mosuse all picked a ‘My AfricaMuseum' item and shared their story."


Bram Vandenbroeck: "The 'My AfricaMuseum' approach is only one of the communication set-ups we realized. For example, we also partnered with the MIVB (The Brussels Public Transport Cooperation) to get some visual attraction in the streets. We wrapped a tram in the style of the new museum, and advertised on and inside buses and other public transportation modes."


The museum, full of artefacts and stuffed wildlife, was often criticised for ignoring the brutalities of King Leopold II’s fiefdom, whose troops collected the hands of those who resisted slave labour at a time when an estimated several million Congolese people died. Many of the artefacts remain, but there is more commentary from African people on video screens and displays by Congolese artists, one including a 120-member family tree, in a bid to centralize Africans rather than Europeans.

Bram Vandenbroeck: "When we started this campaign, Bonka Circus was very aware of the wide array of emotions and stories about the museum and about Belgian colonial history. These emotions differ according to who visits the museum. They can be nostalgic or sometimes very painful... they can be positive or negative. The AfricaMuseum leaves no one untouched. We knew this, and that is why we wanted to take up the challenge of telling the story of the new museum. As you might know, the African continent is embedded in the DNA of Bonka Circus. Every single one of our employees has some kind of link with Africa, whether they are married to an African woman or are engaged in charity projects for the continent... we all have that African connection."

When a museum evokes so many different emotions, the marketing and communication campaign should reflect that. Bram Vandenbroeck explains: "It would be wrong to focus on only the positive or on only the negative emotions... we want that the campaign and the museum reflect the truth. And that's why we are asking the visitors to share their emotions with the world, for example through the 'My AfricaMuseum' campaign.'

Source: Leuven MindGate, Bonka Circus, Reuters

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