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Row over German zoo's Africa show


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Row over German zoo's Africa show

German anti-racism campaigners have condemned plans to stage an African cultural festival in a zoo.

The event is intended to give residents in the town of Augsburg in south Germany, a taste of Africa with craft sellers, drummers, story tellers, music groups and food from around Africa.

But campaigners, including representative of Germany's black community and academics, say setting it in the town's zoo is racist.

"People are upset by the idea of placing [the festival] in a zoo between the baboons and the zebras," said Noah Sow, who founded Der Braune Mob - an organisation that monitors race issues in the German media.

'Exotic atmosphere'

"It is just not the right place to display human beings, let alone their culture," she told the BBC's Network Africa programme.

"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."

According to Augsburg Zoo, the African Village - as the four-day event opening on Thursday 9 June is called - hopes to attract some 20,000 visitors.

Responding to the criticism in a statement, Augsburg Zoo Director Barbara Jantschke has said she does not see anything wrong with staging the event in a zoo.

It is "not an exhibition", she explains.

"[There will be] different stands which present different products from all over Africa."

Aid organisations will be taking part, she added, to allow visitors to get involved in projects in Africa.

'Images stick'

Mrs Jantschke also argued that the zoo was the ideal place to convey the necessary "exotic atmosphere" for the festival.

It is an attitude which campaigners like Ms Sow want to change.

"There is an urge in Germany to see those who are not white as part of something exotic or romanticised."

This treatment insinuates that non-whites are not really part of German society, she says.

Norbert Finzsch, a history professor at the University of Cologne, agrees.

"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 calling for the event not to open.

But not everyone sees the show as contentious

Nehneh Winckler, a German Ghanaian, who is cooking food at the African Village over the weekend, supports the festival and its setting.

The landscape at the zoo - and even the presence of the animals - make the zoo the perfect background, she told Germany newspaper Die Welt.

For Ms Sow, showcasing African talent is not the problem, it is tackling the issue of how German people view black people.

"It's a problem... for children who go to the zoo and to find Africans selling bead necklaces, these are images that stick."

Story from BBC NEWS:


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But campaigners, including representative of Germany's black community and academics, say setting it in the town's zoo is racist.

Racist that, racist this... surely some Africans had a part in picking the place and if not you know what they could do? NOT GO and set up booths! Just think how many months they had to say "no" but DIDN'T!

"It's a problem... for children who go to the zoo and to find Africans selling bead necklaces, these are images that stick."

Surely those same kids that go there can read a sign saying "Culture Fest"! If they can't well surely they will learn in the future that African has many kind of wildlife and those same animals in the zoo are native to... AFRICA!

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Wow. Here in the Philadelphia zoo they had an African Adventure (or whatever) section for a couple of years now. Cheetahs, baboons, etc etc and musicians, artisan stalls, vendors, roaming story-tellers. I thought it was great - a wonderful opportunity to learn more, not just look at pretty animals.

Good grief. Putting African people in cages like the animals would be racist. People have to stop being so sensitive and easily offended.

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It sounds like the prefect environment to learn about another culture. Our zoo has many cultural activities including performances, arts and crafts and culinary traditions from around the world and the people here love it. Its a chance for kids to get to know a world they can't always see or touch.

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Do the phrases "Tempest In A Tea Pot" "Much To Do About Nothing" and "Blown Completely Out Of Proportion" ring any bells to anyone here? Is there no end to Political Correctness. I say if you are offended then don't attend. It would be the same as the genesis who like to complain about sports teams being named in someway to inspire thought of the American Indians. Atlanta Braves, Cleveland Indians, Washington Redskins, Chicago Blackhawks, Florida State Seminoles, University Of Illinois Fighting Illini, etc. etc. etc.......

Well let's get offended folks:

St. Louis Cardinals - offensive to birds

New York Yankees - offensive to yankees

Milwaukee Brewers - offensive to beer makers

Any team named after an animal - offensive to animals

Get my point, you can only get offended if you let yourself be offended. Making a big deal about this only shows how small you are.

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