Norway’s ‘human zoo’ challenges country’s image on racism

The flag of Norway is pictured.  Credit: Michael Hanisch/Flickr
The flag of Norway is pictured.
Credit: Michael Hanisch/Flickr

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 Norwegians’ 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.

“The rebuilding can be regarded as a monument to the collective loss of memory of a shameful part of our history and a platform for discussion of this historical event, contrasting with Norway today,” it said.

The display, costing 1.4 million crowns ($240,000), has touched off a fierce online debate about whether Norway really is as racist as the artists suggest.

Cuznor says even their exhibition permits hint at the country’s intolerance because they cannot stay overnight, so they do not attract the homeless or Roma people, he said.

With per capita GDP around $100,000, Norway is among the most affluent nations and spends about $5 billion of its oil income on foreign aid.

It was also among the first to allow gay people to marry and most polls show that three-quarters of the population support immigration and think newcomers are a positive for Norway.

Its image for tolerance was tested in 2011 when an anti-immigration gunman killed 77 people, mostly teenagers in a summer camp, in a tirade against Muslim immigrants.



News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
Local

Brooklyn man charged in roommate's stabbing death

A Brooklyn man accused of violently stabbing his roommate to death on Monday is in police custody and faces murder charges.

International

Dinosaurs could have survived asteroid strike

It turns out there is a good and a bad time for the planet to be hit by a meteor, and dinosaurs were just unlucky.…

National

OkCupid admits to Facebook-style experimenting on customers

By Sarah McBrideSAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - OkCupid, a top U.S. matchmaking website, intentionally mismatched users to test its technology, the IAC/InterActive Corp service said on…

Local

MTA fares still increasing 4 percent in newly…

The agency said the 4 percent increases, previously announced in December, will remain steady even as the MTA deals with increasing labor costs.

Movies

Interview: Brendan Gleeson on the way 'Calvary' depicts…

Brendan Gleeson talks about how his new film "Calvary" began over drinks and how his character here is the opposite of the lead in "The Guard."

Movies

'Get on Up' producer Mick Jagger on the…

Mick Jagger, a producer on the James Brown biopic "Get on Up," talks about the time had to tell the singer some bad news and his favorite JB record.

Television

'Glee' star Lea Michele to appear on 'Sons…

"Glee" star Lea Michele has been confirmed as a guest star in the final season of "Sons of Anarchy."

Television

TV watch list, Monday, July 28: 'The Bachelorette'…

See Andi Dorfman make her big choice on tonight's 'Bachelorette' finale.

MLB

Angelo Cataldi: Ryan Howard deserves better from Phillies

Just last week, Ryan Howard endured the embarrassment of a benching that was inevitable, and yet still shocking.

NFL

Larry Donnell has inside track in Giants tight…

Little-known Larry Donnell of Grambling State currently has the inside track, as the second-year player has received the bulk of the first-team reps.

NFL

Computer to Jets: Start Michael Vick over Geno…

Jets general manager John Idzik says the choice of who starts between second-year quarterback Geno Smith and veteran Michael Vick will be a “Jets decision.”

MLB

Yankees looking to trade for Josh Willingham: Report

CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman reported Sunday the Yankees are interested in Twins outfielder Josh Willingham.

Travel

Glasgow: Hey, hey, the gangs aren't here

This European city has done a good job getting rid of its more violent residents and revitalizing with artists.

Education

Babson College tops list of best colleges for…

Money magazine has just released its inaugural list of "The Best Colleges for Your Money" -- and the answers have surprised many. Babson College, which…

Education

NYC teens learn how to develop apps during…

Through a program sponsored by CampInteractive, the high schoolers designed their own community-focused apps.

Tech

The Ministry of Silly Walks app is both…

Monty Python have dug into their back catalogue for cash-ins once more, but with the Ministry of Silly Walks app, they've made something that's fun too.