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Last Updated: Friday, 23 June 2006, 07:50 GMT 08:50 UK
Tribal art museum opens its doors
Musee du Quai Branly in Paris
The museum sits beside the River Seine, near the Eiffel Tower
Members of the public will enter France's newest museum for the first time on Friday.

The 260m euro (180m) Musee du Quai Branly, in the shadow of Paris's Eiffel Tower, displays indigenous art from Africa, Asia and Australasia.

French President Jacques Chirac hopes the project will be his legacy to the nation after 12 years in office.

At Tuesday's opening ceremony, he said the museum aimed to "give justice to the infinite diversity of cultures".

It is the first museum to be opened in France's capital since the Georges Pompidou Centre in 1977.

The collection of around 300,000 works of art has mostly been drawn from two existing collections in the Musee d'Homme and the Museum of African and Oceanic arts.

"We are the keepers and the guardians of these pieces," said the museum's president Stephane Martin. "Their history is much longer than the history of the museum."


19th century Dance sculptures from Malekula Island inside the Musee du Quai Branly in Paris
The museum brings continents and cultures together, contributors say
Around 3,500 of the items will be on permanent display, ranging from masks and spears from Papua New Guinea to costumes from Vietnam and Thailand.

Rarities include a wooden duck from Papua New guinea which is pounded onto water to create a sound, and a Polynesian wooden staff which experts believe was used for holding offerings during religious ceremonies.

But some historians and human rights groups say the display perpetuates the old colonialist view of African and Asian culture as more primitive than European civilisation.

It has also been claimed that the museum does not do enough to explain to visitors the damage done by colonialism to many cultures.

However, aboriginal artists who contributed their works to the museum say they see President Chirac's project as a good way to bring continents and cultures together.

Chirac said the museum sent a "message of peace, tolerance and the respect of others".

"At the heart of our move is a refusal to be ethnocentric, a rejection of this unreasonable and unacceptable claim that the West is the sole carrier of humanity's destiny."

The President was speaking as he unveiled the museum on Tuesday, in the presence of UN Secretary General Kofi Annan.

In pictures: Paris' new museum
20 Jun 06 |  In Pictures
Paris unveils tribal art museum
20 Jun 06 |  Europe
Country profile: France
18 Apr 06 |  Country profiles

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