A new museum in Senegal dedicated to exhibiting African art and storing repatriated artefacts is set to open in early 2025, the Josef and Anni Albers Foundation announced this week.
The future museum, Bët-bi, which translates in the West African Wolof dialect as “the eye”, will be located in the southwestern region of Senegambia in Senegal. Spanning 3,280 square feet, the building will include an exhibit gallery, event space and community center in addition to a library.
The design of the new space is led by Mariam Issoufou Kamara, founder of Nigerian architecture firm Atelier Masōmī, who was selected by a jury from a shortlist of four African architectural firms to lead the project. According to the foundation’s statement, Kamara will pay homage to the region’s heritage, emphasizing the characteristics of the indigenous terrain for the design of the building.
Local curators and museum professionals will be part of the museum’s staff, which will also participate in guest curator programs with other institutions in Africa and abroad, according to the statement from the foundation. The center plans to partner with institutions across the continent to exhibit historic and modern African art on loan.
The museum will also serve as a temporary storage space for African artefacts returned by Western institutions, stepping in for regional venues that lack the resources to preserve them. As part of its programming, the museum will offer visits to ancient megaliths and neighboring heritage sites, four of which have been labeled by UNESCO.
The initiative is the latest from Le Korsa, a branch of the New York-based Albers Foundation, which oversees philanthropic projects in rural Senegal. It was founded in 2005 and is run by Nicholas Fox Weber, who is the president of the Senegalese non-profit association.
Like other future projects by Le Korsa, the museum project is inspired by the Bauhaus school, which advocated a community style of teaching design and architecture that facilitated dialogue between its inhabitants. The founders of the organization had ties to the European movement.
News of the museum project comes amid pressure on institutional leaders to rectify the historical links to colonialism that are represented in their collections. In 2018, historian Bénédicte Savoy and Senegalese writer Felwine Sarr recommended in a report commissioned by the Macron administration that the country’s museums return African artifacts seized during French colonial occupation.
In recent years, major international museums like the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Louvre have taken steps to return African artifacts believed to have been looted from occupied regions.