Fire ravages African mask collection in DR Congo

Fire ravages African mask collection in DR Congo

KIKWIT-Agence France-Presse
Fire ravages African mask collection in DR Congo

A fire has destroyed historic masks and other artifacts worth millions of dollars at a museum in the Democratic Republic of Congo, its director said on Nov. 6, voicing suspicion at the inferno’s cause.

A video of the night-time blaze shared on social media showed huge flames engulf the building constructed in 2008 with financial backing from former colonial power Belgium.

"The fire happened in the night of Thursday to Friday," said Aristote Kibala, founder and director of the museum in the western town of Gungu.

"The museum contained more than 25,000 items or works of art worth up to $15 million dollars. We weren’t able to save a single thing."

He suggested the cause might not be accidental.

"The exact causes of this heinous act are not yet known, but I know I have always been fought by several of the country’s politicians," Kibala said.

He said he heard a "cannon shot" in the night before the fire broke out.

Joachim Kusamba, a civil society leader in Gungu, lamented the loss of so many relics, some over a century old.

"The artworks that were in this museum - which included the famous masks of the Pende tribe - dated back to 1890, 1900 or even 1925," he said.

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