Musee des Arts et Traditions du Gabon (Museum of Art and Culture)
The Museum of Art and Culture near the seafront showcases the rich cultural heritage of Gabon in a beautiful way. Gabon, as a former French colony in Africa, has a rich culture which has been highly influenced by both its ethnic background and its French rulers. Some of the most important elements of Gabonese life are dance, songs, myths, and poetry. Art is big part of the heritage too and you can see this through their masks, sculptures and musical instruments. However, art for the sake of art only came into being with the arrival of westerners to the city. Explore the different exhibits for a peek into this unique society where art and culture are intertwined in everyday life.
Connecting with the supernatural world
The Gabonese people have always been very spiritual beings and most of their traditions focus on worship and afterlife, which is represented in their art. In Gabon's traditional beliefs, the natural and supernatural are connected. In the museum, you will find elements from the temple of Bwiti that reflect this spirituality. Bwiti is a male secret society, where the man acquires the knowledge, discipline, and strength necessary to live their life in full. In each village, there is a Bwiti temple, where special ceremonies take place and are the start to enter in contact with the spirits or ancestors. The museum also showcases straw and mud-brick houses, wooden and metal sculptures, and artifacts representing the customs such as native masks used for therapeutic procedures and ceremonial costumes. Among the traditional instruments displayed, you can observe the balafon, harp, mouth bow, drums, rattles, and bells. All of them are believed to call on different spirits and are used in different sacred ceremonies. There is an old decorated gorilla skull that seems to catch the attention of most visitors, so be ready to take a picture.
Good to know
The museum closes on Mondays and Sundays. Take your time to watch the video showing Gabon traditional dances, where people wear some of the masks you'll see on display. We suggest you hire a guide to get a personalized tour with full explanations that you won't be able to find in your own language, as not everything is translated from French. Afterward, head to Village des Artisans to take home a sample of this artistic talent. What are you waiting? Stop by and be educated about a culture that might surprise you.