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Belgium's Africa Museum promises critical approach to colonial past

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Belgium's Africa Museum promises critical approach to colonial past

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Curators are promising to take a more critical view of Belgium's colonial past when the hundred year old Africa Museum reopens later this year.

Millions of Congolose are estimated to have died during King Leopold II's rule - failure to meet rubber production targets was a capital offence - but that brutality wasn't reflected in exhibits such as a statue of a missionary with the plaque "Belgium Brings Civilisation to Congo".

"Certainly very little is known about the negative aspects of the colonial period," says curator Guido Gryseels. "About the violence, about the exploitation, and we hope to bring that new story, that new narrative, in our museum."

Folllowing a 66 million euro refit that's taken five years to complete, the museum just outside Brussels has chosen to retain the original presentation of exhibits, but explain their historical context.

"I think it's very important to say we cannot rewrite history," says government minister Zuhal Demir. "What happened in Congo, no matter how awful I find it, we can't rewrite it. But we can reflect it in the right way, and we can add an element of correction."

Staff are hard at work preparing for December's official reopening: King Philippe is due to attend.