African village event in zoo condemned as racist
9 June 2005, AUGSBURG - An 'African village' event in the Augsburg zoo has been condemned as racist by representatives of Germany's black community and academics.
9 June 2005
AUGSBURG - An 'African village' event in the Augsburg zoo has been condemned as racist by representatives of Germany's black community and academics.
The zoo in the southern German town of Augsburg planned the four-day event, which opens on Thursday, as a chance for visitors to experience a taste of Africa. The event features traditional food, music, crafts and storytelling from around Africa.
However campaigners say that holding the event in the zoo is racist.
"People are upset by the idea of placing [the festival] in a zoo between the baboons and the zebras," said Noah So from the anti-racism media organisation Der Braune Mob, in remarks to the BBC's Network Africa programme.
"It is just not the right place to display human beings, let alone their culture," she said. "Two hundred years ago African people were displayed in zoos. Now we're in 2005 and one could get the impression that nothing's really changed."
"There is an urge in Germany to see those who are not white as part of something exotic or romanticised."
She added that this treatment creates the impression that people of colour are not really part of German society.
However Augsburg Zoo director Barbara Jantschke told the BBC that she did not see anything wrong with plans to stage the event in a zoo.
"It's a kind of market where you can see African products," she said. "So the products are the centre of attention, not the people."
She added that aid organisations will also be taking part, allowing visitors to get involved in African projects.
The zoo was the perfect place to convey the necessary "exotic atmosphere" for the event.
However it is exactly this kind of 'exoticising' of Africa that offends Cologne University history professor Norbert Finzsch.
"The way Africans and African Americans in Germany are perceived and discussed, the way they are presented on billboards and in TV ads prove that the colonialist and racist gaze is still very much alive in Germany," he said in an open letter which called for the event to be cancelled.
[Copyright Expatica News 2005]
Subject: German news