The African collection

Exposition Éternités, visions de l'au-delà
The African collection is currently formed of around 8,000 artefacts, plus ancient and contemporary photographs.

It started with a few artefacts from Central Africa and Somalia donated by Émile Guimet then a South African collection purchased in 1879. Over time, it grew thanks to private collectors with links to the Muséum d’Histoire Naturelle de Lyon (i.e. Lyon natural history museum) and colonial administration networks.

The largest set is from Madagascar, based on Charles Renel’s large collection, put together before 1925 and updated in 2018 with a collection of contemporary pearls. The Ivory Coast is also very well represented with masks, spoons and statuettes acquired in the 1930s-1940s, and Senufo and Dan works purchased more recently. North Africa is illustrated with furnishings collected by the artists Jean and Marie Caire as well as sets of pottery fashioned and glazed in Morocco and Tunisia. Via the deposit by the Society for the Propagation of the Faith, the museum conserves remarkable artefacts from the second half of the 19th century originally from Gulf countries, Guinea, and Central Africa as well as territories rarely represented in French collections, such as Tanzania or Uganda.

In 2000, the Africa department was gifted more than 700 additional everyday items by Denise and Michel Meynet. More recently, it received a number of major donations: Tuareg jewellery from Masnat (non-profit organisation), sub-Saharan ceramics from ARgile (another NPO), headdresses collected by Antoine de Galbert, Nigerian masks and statuettes from Ewa and Yves Develon as well as textiles and wrought ironwork purchased in the field by the anthropologist Françoise Héritier from the San (Samo) people of Burkina Faso.