In the most recent play that has been written by the Rwandan playwright Dorcy Rugamba, a young African man enters a somber European museum and explains to an old mask that he is searching for the soul of Africa.
The artifact comes to life and takes the form of a female.
"You will find neither the truth about your ancestors nor your past — here Africa is extinguished," it responds with shrill laughter. "You will find neither the truth about your ancestors nor your past."
This year's edition of the Biennale of Contemporary African Art is being held in Dakar, the capital city of Senegal, until June 21. The unconventional performance "Supreme Remains" had its world premiere during the event.
The French actress Nathalie Vairac donned the mask and gave it a performance. In it, she says to the audience, "If you follow me, I will take you on a tour of the rivers that led us from your ancestors to these places."
However, she gives fair warning that "we will have to walk through mud."
She invites the audience members to examine the blind spots in the official narrative of colonial history as she guides the museum visitor through one large room after another as she makes her way through the museum.
In one, they have a conversation with a scientist who lived in the late 19th century and measured skulls in the hope of proving that Europeans had superior skulls.
In another, they meet a Belgian army general who is based on a real historical figure and who kept the skulls of three African dignitaries in his home. This general kept the skulls of the three African dignitaries in his home.
The director of the play, Rugamba, stated that the performance was deeply ingrained in history.
"Scientists ordered human remains from the conquerors by the thousands, which were then used to develop racial theories and stereotypes," he said. "These theories and stereotypes led to racial discrimination."
Despite the fact that hundreds of thousands of works of art from Africa are still kept in museums and private collections in the West, there has been an increase in the number of people demanding that these institutions return the "colonial spoils."
In the year 2019, "seven West African countries requested the equivalent of 10,000 objects. These countries included countries that were at war and countries that you would expect to have other concerns.
During the festival, the symposium of the Biennale featured a discussion on how to re-invest meaning into artifacts that have been returned to Africa and how to reconnect them to modern day Africa.
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