Musée des Civilisations de Côte d’Ivoire

During the Second World War all European settler activities were suspended but the French governor established a craft centre in this former colonial administration building to make it profitable. The Centrifan, as it was called was entrusted to ethnologist Bohumil Holas who cared for it until his death in 1979. Centrifan became the Centre for Human Sciences in 1961 and the National Musuem of Abidjan in 1972.

The museum received it grandiose name in 1994. Some pieces of the present collection date from the 1940’s and 1950’s despite some pillage during the crisis of 2010-2011. To date the museum estimates to have over 15,000 pieces. I believe that there had been some renovations in 2016-2017 and was eager to visit and I I had heard about this museum in 2018 but was unable to visit it on that occasion. I was pleasantly surprised by the collection. Though given the money spent on infrastructure projects, the cathedral and several other buildings in Abidjan I expected something more modern and definitely something larger.

Musée des Civilisations de Côte d’Ivoire or Museum of Ivory Coast civilisations is located near the striking Cathedral in the Plateau area of Abidjan which is the principle city, but not the capital of the country. The entire museum is on one floor, which does have air conditioning, but can feel uncomfortable when it is busy, because it is not a very large museum. The museum has a rich ethnographic collection and is popular with both national and international tourists.

Some of the pottery collection
PHOTOGRAPH BY Clifford Pereira

The guides are mainly French-speaking however a few do speak English. Most of the labelling and annotation is in French, but all of the five major linguistic groups and their separate ethnicities across the nation are represented within the collection. The collection includes some striking pottery, costumes, textiles, helmet masks, face masks, musical instruments and figures. There are also some archaeological pieces and some ethnographic photographs.

My recommendation would be that visitors use one of the guides as they are very knowledgeable and are happy to answer specific questions.

Museum Information: Tel +225 27 20 2 22056

Location: 32 Bd Carde. Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire.

Admission: 2000CFA for adults (depends on categories), children are free.

Opening Times: Monday 11:00-16:00, Tuesday to Friday 09:00-18:30.

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Clifford Pereira FRGS

Hailing from Mombasa, Kenya. Cliff's research interests began in 1982 when he first travelled Asia following the routes of the epic voyages of the Fifteenth century Chinese admiral Zheng He. He later graduated with a BA(Hons) in Geography with Asian Studies (Ulster University). After a career in tourism Cliff became a fellow of the Royal Geographical Society (with IBG). He returned to historical research in 2001 on a variety of themes leading to an exhibition at the Royal Geographical Society on the Bombay Africans (2007) and is regarded as the world specialist on the subject. Cliff was Honorary Research Assistant to Royal Holloway's Geography Department (2011-2014) and Visiting Research Assistant to Dalian Maritime University, China (2011-2015). Cliff was researcher-curator on the Bait-Jelmood Museum, Qatar (2013-2016) and research-curator for the National Museum of Qatar, specialising in the Portuguese presence in the Indian Ocean (2016-2018). Cliff was Visiting Research Assistant at the University of Hong Kong (2016-2023). He completed a MA(Res) on the History of Africa and the African Diaspora (University of Chichester) with distinction in 2021. He is presently distance-working on the African collection of the Museum of Anthropology (MOA) at UBC Vancouver, Canada and continues to research and consult for a number of UK heritage institutions. He describes himself as a historical geographer and has been a speaker on various subjects in China, Malaysia, Canada, USA, South Africa, Italy, the UK and on the cruise liners Silversea and Swan Hellenic. He has numerous papers and chapters in publications around the world.