The collection encompasses 35,000 objects and reflects the cultural diversity of Africa, from the Sahel to the southernmost tip of the continent, from Muslim Senegal in the west to Christian Ethiopia and the island of Madagascar in the east. Among the highlights of the collection are exceptional bronzes and ivory objects from the kingdom of Benin, 16th century Afro-Portuguese ivory carvings, and the substantial East Africa collection.
The objects document the traditions of ruling groups, such as the kingdom of Benin in present-day Nigeria, the kingdom of Bamum in the Cameroon grassland, or the Ethiopian empire. They also tell of everyday life, of economic forms, of religious beliefs and of the artistic productions of many of the continent’s ethnic groups.
Most of the objects entered the collection before 1918, and thus represent historical conditions. They tell not only of past African realities, but also of their transfer to Europe in the context of the colonial appropriation of the continent.