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Afro-Colombian memory under attack

African history museum in Colombia is forced to close due to extortion threats

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A museum of Afro-diasporic history in Quibdó, Colombia, was forced to close due to ongoing intimidation and violent threats from armed groups in the Chocó region. US-based academics, Colombian journalists, and Afro-Colombian Vice President Francia Marquez speak out. 


Sergio Antonio Mosquera, Afro-Colombian historian and the founder of Muntú Bantú Afro-diasporic memory museum in Quibdó in the Pacific Coast region of Colombia, announced this month that the museum would have to close its doors. 

He explained that after he and the museum’s director, María Fernanda Parra, received multiple death threats and constant intimidation from armed groups, the situation in Quibdó had become unbearable, and that the team were forced to take the decision to protect themselves and the museum.

He explained that the museum was charged with a ‘war tax’ by armed groups, and that if they refused to pay it, they would be forced to close. The museum’s managers decided on the latter, given that the cultural centre struggles to sustain itself on the income from entry tickets (20,000 COP per person, around $4.30 US), but, above all, because they refuse to contribute to sustaining a conflict which they have never agreed with. In fact, Muntú Bantú is dedicated to the very contrary: recounting violent histories in order to prevent them from ever happening again.

The memory museum restores African documents and artefacts. It boasts 1,200 pieces distributed throughout eight galleries, demonstrating how and under what circumstances Africans were transported to Colombia as slaves.

Muntú Bantú museum presents values that have inspired heroes like Toussaint Louverture - author of the Haitian Revolution, and the most notable Afro-Colombian thinkers, politicians, and soldiers, as well as leaders of global movements like Nelson Mandela and Martin Luther King Jr., according to Jaime Arocha. Credit: Jaime Arocha
Muntú Bantú museum presents values that have inspired heroes like Toussaint Louverture – author of the Haitian Revolution, and the most notable Afro-Colombian thinkers, politicians, and soldiers, as well as leaders of global movements like Nelson Mandela and Martin Luther King Jr., according to Jaime Arocha. Credit: Jaime Arocha

Mosquera is convinced that if African history is excluded from collective memory, that the history of humanity will be incomplete. He states that In order to understand global capitalism, for example, we must first understand the force behind its development: slavery.

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‘It has been a huge challenge to impart to humanity that this nation’s culture is not for sale,’ Mosquera says.

In a letter of solidarity, US-based scholars stated, ‘A prolific Afro-Colombian historian, Mosquera is the founder of the Fundación Muntú Bantú in Quibdó, Colombia, the country’s only African diasporic center and museum. A sacred space, it has served as a central social and educational center for African diasporic history and culture since 2009. We condemn these violent threats and intimidation against Mosquera and Parra, and call on the international community to stand in solidarity with our colleagues.’

The Muntú Bantú museum entrance, opposite the Technological University of Chocó in Quibdó. The iron sculpture represents the cargo holds on slave ships, 'so that visitors can imagine how men and women were forced to travel the Atlantic Ocean from Western and Central Africa, chained for three months, their necks, wrists and ankles shackled,' according to Jaime Arocha. Credit: Jaime Arocha.
The Muntú Bantú museum entrance, opposite the Technological University of Chocó in Quibdó. The iron sculpture represents the cargo holds on slave ships, ‘so that visitors can imagine how men and women were forced to travel the Atlantic Ocean from Western and Central Africa, chained for three months, their necks, wrists and ankles shackled,’ according to Jaime Arocha. Credit: Jaime Arocha.

The statement also emphasizes that these threats ‘come at a time of growing Afro-Colombian political visibility and representation in public life due to the election of Francia Márquez, the first Afro-Colombian vice-president in the country’s history.’ Márquez herself has been the victim of numerous racist attacks and death threats. The Vice President of Colombia has publicly denounced the threats against Mosquera and Parra. See Márquez’s Instagram video on the matter here.

‘Hopefully the peace negotiators will take note of this letter and other voices speaking out, and support the future Muntu-Bantu museum project,’ said Jaime Arocha, a founding member of the Afro-Colombian Studies Association at Colombia’s National University.