Tag: Africa

Leopold II: a currency for the Congo Free State?

At the end of the 19th century, the Congo, with its territory 80 times bigger than Belgium, became the personal property of King Leopold II of Belgium. After the 1885 Berlin Conference, Leopold II was internationally recognised as the sovereign of the Congo Free State. In other words, he became the absolute sovereign ruler of the free State, with sovereignty being fully incarnated in the king’s persona.

Katanga Crosses

In June 2010 the Democratic Republic of Congo celebrated the 50th anniversary of its independence, giving us a good opportunity to bring up a very unusual object hailing from one of the country’s southern provinces, Katanga. It is the copper cross.

Art and Money

The National Bank of Belgium supports like a number of other companies and central banks contemporary artists. Since the acquired works are hung up on the walls of its premises, they are not usually seen by the public. From time to time a work is presented in a public hall, like the Museum of the NBB, where it can be admired by the public at large.

Salt, the white gold?

Today, we use salt to season food, for instance on French fries. But do you know that throughout history salt was used on a far more larger scale than nowadays? And that it was a common means of payment?

Cowry Shells, a trade currency

The Museum of the National Bank is probably not the first thing that crosses your mind when you are talking about shells. And yet, apart from a large number of coins and banknotes it also possesses a nice collection of primitive means of payments. Within this category of traditional money the cowry shell is one the […]

The zappozap: a decorative axe as a means of payment

In 1887, two years after acquiring the Congo as his personal kingdom, Leopold II signed a decree organising the currency system, and giving the Belgian franc the status of the single currency. However, the Congolese people were very reluctant to use this new coinage, and it was a long time before the standard currency became generally accepted.