Museum dos Naufragos


This distinctive building stands tall in the heart of Sal-Rei, nestled amongst its traditional dwellings. Unique in its structure, the museum is a work of art constructed entirely from local white limestone and volcanic rock. Inside, mosaics, stained-glass, paintings, and sculptures illustrate the captivating history of the Cape Verde Islands. This narrative unfolds across a vast exhibit arranged on three levels, in a journey that invites an ascent.

The journey begins on the ground floor, a metaphor for the ocean’s depths, where, wandering among the remains of a shipwreck, one can plunge into themes that, both in history and the human soul, reside in hidden depths.

A staircase guides us to the first floor, symbolizing the ocean’s surface. This level represents the moment when Cape Verde emerges from the depths, where its vibrant, musical culture has managed to withstand the force of the waves and the wind, enduring periods of plenty and famine.

A further ascent takes us to the second floor, a verdant and lush environment that introduces us to modernity. Here, we will have the opportunity to taste typical island products and appreciate a collection of contemporary art. This final level represents the continuous evolution of these lands, with artists who, through the universal language of art, express the intrinsic value of Cape Verde, projecting a promising vision for the future.

HOURS: Open every day from 9.15 to 12.30. Closed on Sunday and Tuesday.

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The permanent exhibition addresses three main themes through a variety of approaches: the history and culture of the Cape Verde Islands, the universal language of art, the path of a “castaway” to safety.

The story is told from the point of view of a “castaway” lost in the sea of life; the metaphor of the shipwreck refers to the condition of the man who, like Jonas, Ulysses and Robinson Crusoe, embarks on a journey on the open sea, far from home and from what is right, in search of knowledge.

The museum fulfils the dual task of preserving the history, culture and diversity of the past and providing a place for an open debate about the future and a better understanding of what it means to be human beyond mere ethnicity.

A bit of history: Over 20 years ago, Italian archaeologist Maurizio Rossi, a graduate of the University of Florence, arrived in Boa Vista and discovered the rich and unique creole culture of the area. This experience inspired him to create the Shipwreck Museum, a place dedicated to the preservation and dissemination of the history and culture of this people, which Rossi considers a heritage of humanity.

Inaugurated in Sal Rei, on the island of Boa Vista, in November 2019, the Shipwreck Museum was mainly built by Rossi’s own hands since 2003. Boa Vista is an island particularly affected by shipwrecks and piracy, and the museum tells the story of humankind through the 500 years of Cape Verdean history, touching on themes such as the Age of Discoveries, slavery, isolation, and survival.

“Shipwreck is a condition in which all men live throughout their lives,” explains Rossi. “It is a person who is lost in the sea of life without finding an island that can save their soul and their history.” The museum is structured on three floors that represent the rise of Cape Verdean history and culture from the darkness of piracy and slavery to the light of art and the encounter between cultures.

The Shipwreck Museum is the only one of its kind in Cape Verde and is part of a foundation that collects donations, artifacts, and support. The permanent exhibition includes relics from historical shipwrecks off the coast of Boa Vista, objects related to the era of pirate attacks, the slave trade to America, and local culture.

For Rossi, the museum has the dual function of preserving the history, culture, and diversity of the past and offering a space for open debate on the future and a better understanding of human beings. “Cape Verde can be an example of humanity in contact and a new way of uniting people,” says Rossi, emphasizing the importance of intercultural dialogue.

Inside the museum, visitors can admire large mosaics, stained glass windows, paintings, and sculptures that tell the story of the Cape Verdean islands. The exhibition begins with the ruins of a shipwreck that symbolize the depths of the human soul and continues with the history and culture of Cape Verde, ending with a garden of lush plants and contemporary works of art by various Cape Verdean artists.

Rossi constantly works to expand the museum’s collection, seeking to enhance Cape Verde’s cultural heritage and prevent historical objects from leaving the archipelago. He collaborates with the Institute of Cultural Heritage and the Municipality of Boa Vista to manage and protect the relics.

With experience in archaeological excavations in several North African countries, such as Algeria, Libya, and Tunisia, Rossi found the ideal place in Cape Verde to realize his dream. The Shipwreck Museum has become his life project, and even his children have been involved in this adventure.

The Shipwreck Museum is a must-visit for anyone visiting the island of Boa Vista and wishing to immerse themselves in the extraordinary history and culture of Cape Verde. A journey through the depths of the human soul, resilience, and cultural diversity of a people who have so much to offer the world. With his dedication and passion, Rossi continues to preserve and promote Cape Verde’s heritage, offering visitors a unique and unforgettable experience.

Why visit the Museu dos Naufragos?

To learn a bit of Cape Verde history in a place for open discussion and debate, and to better understand what it means to be human.

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