The National Museum of the Democratic Republic of Congo (MNRDC) has travelled outside Africa for the first time after being piloted as a vivid virtual reality experience in New York City.
The virtual experience was developed by Africell, the only US-owned mobile network operator in Africa, as part of its technology partnership with the museum. Using state-of-the-art digital headsets, viewers can explore the museum’s collections and architecture in high-resolution detail.
The MNRDC is among Africa’s most significant cultural institutions. Based in Kinshasa, the museum tells the story of Congolese culture from pre-history to the present day. Its collections represent the heritage of the Congo’s many ethnic groups, tribes, languages and religions. The virtual experience extends MNRDC’s reach, allowing it to in inspire audiences with otherwise limited access to Congolese culture.
“Initiatives like this are vital for preserving our heritage and telling our story”, says Désiré Cashmir Kolongele Eberande, DRC’s Minister for Digital Affairs. “The Democratic Republic of Congo is introducing digital capability into more and more areas of economic and social life, including the cultural sphere. The MNRDC is a prized national asset which deserves a global audience. The virtual reality experience developed by Africell and piloted in New York is a digital milestone which will allow more people to engage with the museum and learn about our country”.
The project was revealed at Africa Creates, an event hosted by Africell in New York which also saw the launch of a digital gallery with works by contemporary artists including Antonio Ole, Nelo Teixeira, Romario Lukau and Francisco Vidal (who represented Angola at the 56th Venice Biennale and performed live at the event). Artworks were brought to life on high-definition touch screens, allowing viewers to engage with them digitally for the first time. Guests also enjoyed a screening of Sing, Freetown, an acclaimed documentary film about national identity in Sierra Leone, directed by Clive Patterson and featuring journalist Sorious Samura and playwright Charlie Haffner.
New York is a major global center for African culture and home to over two million people of African heritage. Present at the event were over 150 officials, entrepreneurs, artists and thinkers from sub-Saharan Africa and the US, including His Excellency Dr Julius Maada Bio, President of Sierra Leone, and Her Excellency Dr Fatima Bio, First Lady of Sierra Leone. Africa Creates occurred during UN general Assembly week, which typically sees African issues approached from a political and developmental direction. The event was intended to shake things up by putting culture first and encouraging creative collaboration between Africam New York and the wider US.
Sierra Leone’s Ambassador in Washington D.C., Sidique Abou-Bakarr Wai, emphasises the importance of cooperation between West Africa and the US.
“As a country, we want to grow our exposure in the US, attract more inward investment and encourage collaboration at all levels. Africell is the biggest brand and the leading technology company in Sierra Leone and as a US-owned operator, with expertise in digital technology, it is a natural partner in this mission”.
Both the virtual MNRDC and the Africa Creates digital gallery are to be launched publicly and made available online in 2023.