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For decades, Belgian schoolchildren had come to the Africa Museum near Brussels to marvel at the stuffed animals, drums, ritual masks and minerals that glowed in the darkness of vast cellars.The museum, long called the world's last colonial museum, is reopening Saturday after more than 10 years spent revamping the building and overhauling its dated, one-sided approach to history.It's proved a huge challenge for director Guido Gryseels, who has had to place Belgium's manifold imperial abuses in a museum built by the chief perpetrator of those horrors for his own glory. A Congolese artist's statue is given a prominent place in the new exhibition space, while many statues representing the most denigrating, cliched views of the Congolese have been rounded up and placed into a windowless room.The palatial 1910 museum is a still protected monument. Leopold's double-L anagram is still plastered on walls and ceilings as the defiant stamp of a bygone era, and gold-lettered panels still lionize "Belgium offering civilization to Congo".Gryseels maintains that history has its place, but he says he's not an apologist for colonialism or Belgium's suppression of Congo.It would be incorrect to assume that all Africans were repulsed by the old museum.
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