Home National museum RTL Today – National Museum of History and Art: Inauguration of the exhibition on “Luxembourg’s colonial past”

RTL Today – National Museum of History and Art: Inauguration of the exhibition on “Luxembourg’s colonial past”

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While Luxembourg was never a colonial power, a new exhibition at the National Museum of History and Art (MNHA) sheds light on the Grand Duchy’s involvement in the occupation of foreign territories and the subjugation of Indigenous Peoples.

Commissioner Régis Moes explained to our colleagues from RTL Radio that the setting up of a special exhibition on Luxembourgers from Western colonies in 2022 is “no coincidence”.

Indeed, exactly 100 years ago, Belgium granted Luxembourg nationals equal treatment in the Belgian Congo, which meant that they could become civil servants.

And many Luxembourgers have followed this professional path. However, there were also engineers, missionaries and many families. At its peak in 1957, nearly 600 Luxembourgers lived in the Belgian Congo.

The Luxembourgers who lived in the colonies had a certain influence on society in the Grand Duchy.

According to Moes, they represented “an electorate that politicians wanted to keep happy”. For this reason, Luxembourg politicians “took a stand” and morally and financially supported the Luxembourg colonial associations, visiting many of their events.

As the inequalities in the colonies were well known at the time, there were also critical voices. Nevertheless, Moes explained that life abroad had “a glamorous air”. The trips to the colonies were also interesting from an economic point of view. The exhibit features a photo of former Prime Minister Pierre Dupong, which shows the politician holding a glass of wine in the Belgian Congo.

However, the exhibition is not intended to shame anyone, according to MNHA director Michel Polfer.

Polfer explained that the museum “doesn’t want to wiggle its fingers”, but “to raise awareness and let the world know certain facts”. These facts, Polfer continued, make it clear that colonialism was and continues to be “a phenomenon” for the people of Luxembourg.

The second part of the exhibition deals with the repercussions of Luxembourg’s colonial past up to the present day. The main focus of this part is on the testimonies of people who have some sort of connection to this past. Visitors are invited to listen to their stories.

One such story is told by Jeannine Grisius, whose mother was from Rwanda while her father was born in Luxembourg. Grisius explains that back then people called him “Mischling” (“bastard”). She lived with her mother in an African village for the first six years of her life. When she was six, her father decided she should get a “European education” and took her away from her mother.

The exhibition will be open to visitors until November 6.

Parliamentary question from MP Fernand Kartheiser regarding the exhibition

In a parliamentary question to Culture Minister Sam Tanson, MP Fernand Kartheiser of the Alternative Democratic Reform Party (adr) asked if Tanson thinks the title of the exhibition, “Luxembourg’s Colonial Past”, is appropriate. In response, the minister and the director Michel Polfer invite the deputy to visit the exhibition himself. The Museum also says that during its research for this special exhibition, its team took a closer look at its own inventory and found several “problematic” objects from Africa.