Thursday, April 7, 2011

Global Interactions: West Africa and the Atlantic World

Right: the Ouidah Museum of History in Ouidah, Benin.

In contrast to the Cap Coast Castle (Kreamer 2006) in Ghana, the Ouidah Museum of History in Benin, though not a designated UNESCO Heritage Site, shares a similar history, but presented slightly differently. In Ouidah, there doesn't appear to be the same pressure coming from Black American ex-patriots attempting to dictate how the museum and its exhibits should be presented. The Ouidah Museum of History contains a wealth of objects and illustrations of historic and cultural significance, which together gives the visitor an intimate understanding of the region's past. The Museum of Ouidah 's permanent collections depict the history and traditions of the region's inhabitants. Beginning with artifacts from the old Portuguese Fort (in which the Museum of Ouidah is housed), the collections proceed to describe through objects, imagery, and artifacts the history of the kingdom of Xwéda and kingdom of Dahomey, both of which were dependent on the trade in enslaved individuals with Europeans for riches and power. Photos and artifacts portray the impact that people from Benin made on the cultures of New World societies, as well as the effects of mass repatriation to Benin after the decline of the slave trade. Finally, local religious tradition is characterized through many current religious items and photos from local ceremonies. Unlike the "thanatourism" (Kreamer: 453) approach taken at the Cape Coast Castle, the Ouidah Museum of History appears to refreshingly take the heritage tourism approach, even as the museum is located in the actual fort.

Kreamer, C. M. 2006. 2006. Shared Heritage, Contested Terrain: Cultural Negotiation and Ghana's Cape Coast Castle Museum Exhibition "Crossroads of People, Crossroads of Trade". In Museum Frictions: Public Cultures/Global Transformations. Edited by Ivan Karp, Corinne A. Kratz, Lynn Szwaja, Tomas Ybarra-Frausto. Duke University Press, pp. 435-468.

1 comment:

  1. In his presentation, Michael brought up some of the conflicting interactions of tourism and culture, and where economics falls into that interaction. It seems that in this present day, culture, as seen through tourism, is one of the few ways for a culture to be economically viable. It may not be a desirable situation, but performing one's culture is a good that is sought out and is paid for. So do we see tourism as a form of neocolonialism? We are consuming culture, requiring groups to artificially be held back (or to hide their modern conveniences), the displacement of sacred traditions. But through such consumption of culture, are we limiting their economic viability or is that simply the only viable market in a particular location at this point in time? Is there an obsession with speciminizing and collecting? As tourists, do we want to feel superior to those we are viewing, or is it something else?