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On-line version ISSN 2309-8392
Print version ISSN 0018-229X


MUFUZI, Friday. The Livingstone Museum and its role in postcolonial Zambia, 1964-2006. Historia [online]. 2012, vol.57, n.1, pp.127-140. ISSN 2309-8392.

The first article on the Livingstone Museum, published last year in Historia, demonstrated that the Museum was originally established as a tool to exhibit African material culture in order to provide evidence to the rest of the world of the superiority of European culture compared to African culture. The article argued that this was because European settlers saw the need to legitimise colonial rule in the territory; colonial officials felt that the "civilising" effect of European culture was necessary to rescue Africans from their "primitive" way of life. This piece examines the Livingstone Museum and the role it played in independent Zambia, from 1964 to 2006. With the aid of temporary and permanent exhibitions mounted at the institution during this period, the article postulates that in the same vein as the colonial administration, the postcolonial government also used the Museum as a tool to promote its political agenda. Its main objective was to reverse the negative image that the Zambian culture and history had been accorded in the colonial period. The Museum was used as an ally by the nationalist government to promote national unity and patriotism, which had been undermined during the colonial era. In order to achieve this objective, the Museum staged exhibitions that glorified the African people and their culture at the expense of other racial groups that had emerged following colonial rule, such as Europeans and Indians. This article advances the thesis that contrary to the slogan "one Zambia one Nation", advanced by politicians after the attainment of independence (with the aim of creating a Zambian society in which all racial groups live in harmony) the Livingstone Museum's presentations in postcolonial Zambia were not balanced but were decidedly Afrocentric. In other words, postcolonial Livingstone Museum was also guilty of racial prejudice - the very same offence of which the colonial Museum was accused when they mounted their Eurocentric presentations. In practical terms, the Museum's exhibitions in each period reflected the current political dispensation. They were Eurocentric in the colonial period and Afrocentric in the postcolonial period. Nevertheless, the Museum does offer a platform, an educational centre through which both Zambian and foreign visitors are able to learn the country's culture, history, natural history and it indicates the path that the Zambian people have traversed from pre-colonial times to the present. Above all, it has kept alive the rich Zambian historical and cultural heritage.

Keywords : Zambia; colonialism; colonial period; postcolonial period; independence; Livingstone Museum; material culture; Afrocentric political agenda; Eurocentric racial prejudice; educational centre; one Zambia, one Nation.

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