As I walked on the muddy path looking at the perfect topiaries, I couldn’t help but notice how Sundays must be the busiest days for the AfricaMuseum in Tervuren, Belgium. There were hundreds of children playing — one would think it is a nursery school. On the left, however, is a glass building — a new addition to the 125-year-old museum — which has been highly criticised for being racist and colonial by activists in and outside Belgium. Outside, in an exhibition room, there was a disclaimer: “These images and words do not represent the current perspective of the AfricaMuseum in any way.” ALSO READ: A closer look at heroism before, during and after colonialism Oddly, an exhibition titled “MY NAME IS NO-BODY” by photo-journalist Teddy Mazina was underway, and it was exposing the colonial photographic representations of Africa, Africans, and non-Europeans, through images and captions found in the AfricaMuseum’s photo archives. Mazina is an award-winning Burundian ‘activist photographer’ who is also in political exile, living between Belgium and Rwanda. His exhibition, which he describes as only a teaser, shows shocking images dating back to colonialism, of naked women and chained men with their descriptions being “negroes”, “pygmies”, or “cannibals”, among other dehumanising names. One photo shows a man carrying a monkey on his back, captioned “a pygmy and monkeys”, and another shows a group of men and a girl, and is captioned “young girl from the Kongo tribe in Ubangi surrounded by her brothers from her tribe”. There was also a photo that shows a group of about two dozen men whose necks are chained. Some have hoes and it looks like they were going to till the land. The caption for this was “punishment for bad negroes”. There was another one that showed a man stretching to pick a plant from a water body. Since it was a bit far from the land, he was chained, and two white men were pulling the chain. Other photos show postcards that were used by the colonists, which had half-naked people with “Happy New Year” written on their chests across their bellies, women who were half-naked kneeling down in a group, and more. “What I am showing in this exhibition is the connection between the stereotypes of African bodies, the continent, in the captions and what is being said about us, and what is left today. As an artist, I see the connection between what has been written about our bodies and how it was spread into Belgium during the colonial period, by postcards, human zoos, and more,” Mazina told The New Times in an interview. ALSO READ: New museum to showcase Rwanda's colonial history launched in Kigali His exhibition was questioning colonial photographic representations of Africa, Africans, and non-Europeans, “such as the depiction of absolute differences, of radical otherness, of incomplete beings, of bodies without subjects, of ‘impossible subjectifications’,” explained the description on the museum’s website. Mazina showed that they were beings who were necessarily deprived of something, and repeatedly so in labels; ‘names’, hence the name of the exhibition. The management of the AfricaMuseum, which holds part of the history and memory of Central Africa during the colonial period, including 170,000 photos and 650 films on the Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda, and Burundi dating from the 19th and 20th centuries, did not welcome Mazina’s exhibition with open arms. In fact, the institution put a ban on the exhibition and only allowed two showings, on October 29 and November 12, strictly in the guidance of the artist. Nevertheless, this exhibition attracted more than 1,100 people. The museum’s Director General, Bart Ouvry, explained this decision in a press release, saying that the colonial images from the archives and their descriptions are demeaning. “Showing them unfiltered would demonstrate a lack of respect for victims of violence and racism worldwide.” “It was the right decision to ensure that individual visitors would not simply be confronted by these racist and misogynistic images, but to ask Teddy to accompany viewers, share his doubts and his indignation at the way his ancestors were depicted, and express his desire to deconstruct stereotypes,” the press release reads. ALSO READ: How Rwanda is dismantling neocolonialism It also explicitly shows the museum’s negative sentiments towards the exhibition, adding that the museum could have “guided the project better, with more scientific input and more dialogue regarding the most appropriate way to denounce this blatant injustice.” Nevertheless, Mazina said the exhibition is just the tip of the iceberg on what he can do with the archives. “What I found in the archives is what I show, but it is a tiny part of what I can do if I had more means and more time,” he said. The museum The AfricaMuseum originated 126 years ago, when King Leopold II set up the International Exposition in 1897. He created fake villages, known as ‘human zoos’ next to where the museum is now built, to convince visitors that Belgium had a duty to bring civilization and Christianity to DR Congo. 267 Congolese men, women, and children were forcefully taken to perform in the zoos, and by the end of the international exhibition which lasted six months, more than one million people had visited. Belgium would later colonise Congo, and add then ‘Ruanda-Urundi’ (Rwanda and Burundi now) to the ‘Congo Belge’ territory. The museum now has approximately three kilometres of historical archives, cultural artefacts, and human remains, which were looted, or given out as gifts.