Human zoo hopes to challenge Norway's image on racism

Fri May 16, 2014 12:46pm EDT
 
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By Balazs Koranyi

OSLO (Reuters) - Displaying 80 people in a human zoo in Oslo's most elegant park, two artists hope their "Congo Village" display will help erase what they say is Norwegian's collective amnesia about racism.

Re-enacting a similar display from 1914, Lars Cuznor and Mohamed Ali Fadlabi say Norway, one of the richest nations in the world, with a reputation for tolerance, has only suppressed its intolerance, especially around the time of Saturday's national day.

The Congo Village - which 100 years ago displayed African tribes, attracting 1.4 million visitors over four months - will this time exhibit volunteers taking turns living on show in makeshift huts, resembling a traditional sub-Saharan village.

"Norwegians have been propagating this self-image of a post-racial society and it's been internalized that it's a good, tolerant society," Swedish-Canadian Cuznor told Reuters on Friday. "It's great branding and it's self perpetuating but it's a false image."

The government-funded display opened just days before Norway celebrates the 200th anniversary of its constitution on Saturday, a day marked by parades all over the country with most people dressed in traditional costumes and waving flags.

"May 17 is the day you feel most foreign and it's also when racism comes to the surface with debates about whether people have the right to wear their own costumes or display non Norwegian flags," Sudan-born Fadlabi said.

"Norwegians felt superior in 1914 and they still do through their self image of goodness."

Public Art Norway, the government agency that put up part of the funding, said the display highlighted questions concerning racism and cultural dominance.   Continued...