It was noxious. On a poster, a young African woman is resting on the ground, her breasts are exposed, one leg bent suggestively. Right behind her, a wild-looking black girl with red hair is wagging her hips.
What I am observing is not an ancient pornographic cartoon. It is an old, official poster, which is advertising a so-called ‘human zoo’, or as it used to be called in French: ‘Jardin Zoologique D’Acclimatation’. And it is not hanging somewhere around Pigalle, but in a highly ‘respectable’ Army Museum, Musée de l’Armée, in the enormous palace – Hôtel national des Invalides – near the Military School, Napoleon’s Tomb and the headquarters of UNESCO.
On this matter, Iman Hassan wrote for ‘Africa Matters’ in 2013:
“In the 19th and 20th century, Human Zoos were public exhibits of indigenous people to demonstrate the customs and lifestyles of the ‘uncivilized’ in comparison to the ‘civilized’ western nations. The infamous ‘Jardin Zoologique d’Acclimatation’ was used as a means for the imperialist tyrants to feed their fascination with pseudo-scientific studies. In particular, surrounding racial differences amongst them and the indigenous nations they colonized. The Jardin Zoologique d’Acclimatation housed various ethnic groups who had all been subsequently taken from their homelands and relocated to Paris as species for the human exhibit. As I began to read more and more about this institution, I came across an article titled ‘Les Somalis au Jardin Zoologique d’Acclimatation’ which elaborated on the experiences of the Somalis inhabiting the exhibit in Paris. The zoo was one huge scientific exhibition to reaffirm the ignorant belief that Western culture was the pinnacle of social evolution. The zoo housed a caravan filled with twenty-six Somali children, men and women, who all belonged to various tribes, including the tribe my father belonged too…”
The Army Museum in Paris is also where posters that glorify the mass murder of African people are still proudly hanging on its walls, side by side with the ‘artworks’ celebrating the French conquest of Madagascar. Lire la suite »