Two artists have recreated a “human zoo” in Oslo, Norway, based on the Kongoslandsbyen (“Congo Village”) of 1914 Oslo World Fair.
The 1914 Kongoslandsbyen was a staged exhibit where visitors could view 80 supposedly Congolese men, women, and children (who were actually from Sudan) living in a mock African village and doing so-called indigenous things. The exhibit attracted 1.4 million visitors and was described by Norwegian newspapers at the time as “exceedingly funny.”
During the 19th and early 20th centuries such staged exhibits were common in Belgium, Germany, France, and the United States, among other countries, including Norway. Today, anything resembling these “human zoos” or Norway’s original Kongoslandsbyen would be vigorously criticized by governments and human rights organizations throughout the world; however, the modern-day re-creation is co-funded by the Norwegian government and is filled with international volunteers from a variety of different races.
The exhibit’s creators, Norwegian-Sudanese Mohamed Ali Fadlabi and Swedish-Canadian Lars Cuznor, want to begin a discussion about colonialism, racism, and equality in Norway. Their exhibit, titled “European Attraction Limited,” is meant to inform and challenge Norway’s beliefs of moral superiority by confronting visitors with evidence of Norway’s blatantly racist past.
“Norwegians have been propagating this self-image of a post-racial society, and it’s been internalized that it’s a good, tolerant society,” Cuznor told Reuters. It is this sentiment that the artists seek to challenge through their exhibit.
The artists have been targets of threats from neo-Nazi organizations, furthering the exhibit’s message that racism still exists in Norwegian society.
The exhibit opened May 15—in time to mark both the 200th anniversary of Norway’s constitution and the 100th anniversary of the original “Congo Village.”
Source: Norway reopens racist ‘human zoo’ to remind people about racism | GlobalPost