Kulture News: Recreating the Human Zoo

European Attraction Limited

Oslo, Norway

15th May 2014

Artists: Mohamed Ali Fadlabi and Lars Cuzne

Art | Kulture | Politics

Recently an online petition caught my eye and had left people angered by history being regurgitated in the name of art.

A new exhibition will exhibit Africans in a Human Zoo.

Clicked on the link. Read the petition. Scanned the outraged comments.

...AND people from all over the world were seeing beyond race and wanted to highlight that we're human, and as humans we have the rights to be treated respectfully. Regardless of race - what happened in 1914 (with the Kongolandsbyen) was pure wrong, and to mimic the mistakes of people in the past and to take it on as art is distasteful.

The exhibition is part of the 200th anniversary of the Norwegian constitution. The government funded project will support a reenactment of the 1914 "Human Zoo", also known as "Kongolandsbyen".

My first thoughts were, "Is this something that is really necessary?" "Is this really art?" As I'm writing this I still don't know what to think. On the one hand I can see how this is just ridiculous, and very provocative. But in the same breathe, isn't this exactly what the artists wanted people to do, to think about the social issue of race.

How people perceive history is different though, and that shouldn't be ignored. For some people the Human Zoo would've been an educational process - a way for Norwegians to learn more about other people. To add, according to the Guardian it was entertainment for many Europeans, who found it comical how "backward" Africans were. And lastly for others it would've been a way to reinforce their power against people they saw as subhuman.

For the pure and simple fact that, a lot of these Africans died in Norway, and then weren't given a formal and respectful burial it could suggest that unfortunately the reasons for the Human Zoo had more to do with the latter.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3_uvkkX13Oo&w=640&h=390]

Ponder and konversate...

Is this art mocking history? Could this highlight that, racism is still a topic that needs to be addressed in Europe? Where do you take this after - can these artists move on after this? If it hammers up loads of positive responses with people supporting this for negative reasons, how can these artists then educate people?

European Attraction Limited will be open from the 15 May, in Oslo, Norway.

Halima Hosh has started a petition against it.