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Exhibition reimagines stories of Colwyn Bay’s Congo House


March 14, 2024 - 486 views

Conwy Museum Service are staging a new exhibition that will re-imagine the Congo House/African Institute which was based in Colwyn Bay between 1889 and 1912.

The Congo House/African Institute in Colwyn Bay was founded in 1889 by Rev. William Hughes. He was a Baptist missionary in Congo from 1882 to 1885 and set up Congo House (later called African Institute), as a training institution after having to return to Wales due to ill health.

The Institute was set up to train Black students in a range of skills and trades. Some returned home after this, while others went on to study at universities across Britain, returning to Africa as doctors, teachers, nurses and journalists.

The Museum Service has worked with people from North Wales and Central Africa to tell the story of the African Institute, supported by heritage consultants Dr Marian Gwyn, Raj Pal, Professor Robert Burroughs, Colwyn Bay group NWAMI (Networking For World Awareness Of Multicultural Integration), and Museums Officer, Rachel Evans. The exhibition uses art, animation, and artefactsto explore different perspectives on this important part of Black History in Wales.

The exhibition will showcase the creative reflections from an art project led by Cameroonian, North Wales based artist Mfikela Jean Samuel who worked with Art Teacher, Aimee Jones, and pupils from Ysgol Bryn Elian. They explored the story of the Institute to produce a series of paintings.

When talking of the project, Mfikela Jean Samuel said, “As an African artist living in North Wales, this project to me is a great fusion of experiences that brings together the past and the present story of immigrants and visitors who come to North Wales”.

TAPE Community Music and Film also led an animation project with Ysgol Gogarth and members of the Colwyn Bay community to bring to life some of the stories of the African Institute through animation.

Elly, Sam and Noah, animators at Tape Community Music and Film shared that, “It was an honour for TAPE to work with the local community to create these animations. The involvement of so many, including key community members for Matadi (A city in the Democratic Republic of the Congo), has helped make this an incredible, unforgettable and rewarding experience for everyone involved.” 

Cllr Aaron Wynne, Conwy County Borough Council’s Cabinet Member for Culture and Leisure, said, “This exhibition offers important new perspectives and Conwy Museum Service has created a rich experience for visitors to connect and explore the history of Congo House/African Institute.”

The exhibition will be on display in Colwyn Bay Library from 16th March 2024. The library opening hours are Monday, Wednesday, Thursday & Friday – 9am-5.30pm, Tuesday 10am-7pm, and Saturday 9.30am-3pm.

The exhibition has been funded by AIM and Welsh Government through the Anti-Racist Wales Action Plan along with the UK Shared Prosperity Fund