This girl is in a human zoo in Brussels, Belgium in 1958. Human zoos with African people put on display go back to at least 19th century Europe. The ”visitors” here are feeding her just like you would a monkey or a kangaroo.
Black African Girl in a Human Zoo in Belgium 1958.
The message comes with the picture of an African girl who is supposedly put on display in a ‘Human Zoo’ in Belgium in 1958. Yes, it is a disturbing fact, where the paid visitors used to feed her like we do with animals in a zoo. Human Zoos are our sad, forgotten history that perhaps rooted the evil Racism.
Starting from the end of fifteenth century, for over four centuries, the European societies developed a weird habit of exhibiting exotic human “specimens” in Paris, London or Berlin for the interested crowd. Not just the Africans, hundreds of indigenous people that also included Moors, Tartars, Indians and Turks were shipped and put on display for white Westerners to view. These ethnological expositions or Negro Villages were called as Human Zoos, where humans were exhibited publicly, usually in a so-called natural or primitive state. The human displays often emphasized the cultural differences between Western Europeans and non-European people.
The human exhibits in these zoos treated in uncivilized ways. Here people could watch whole villages built in zoos of Kanaks or Senegalese, with real-life inhabitants who were paid to perform war dances or religious rituals in front of their colonial masters — all this for the amusement of a paying public. In high colonial times, hundreds of thousands of visitors of these “human zoos” contributed to great international trade fairs. And ironically, many of the human exhibits died quickly, after being exposed to diseases foreign to them.
Couple of Examples
South African Saartjie Baartman was one of the most famous Khoikhoi women who were exhibited as freak show attractions in 19th-century Europe. She had a genetic characteristic called Steatopygia, with protuberant buttocks and elongated female genitalia which delighted the cabaret-goers of London. Born around 1780, Baartman was brought to London in 1810 to put on display, and later she came to be known as the Hottentot Venus. And when she died in poverty, even her skeleton was put on display that remained on show in the Museum of Mankind in Paris until 1974.
Five Kawesqar Indians were kidnapped in 1881 and brought to Europe for display in zoos. It was only after 130 years, the remains of the five were returned to their ancestral homeland Chile for burial. Some pictures of Human Zoos shown in this article speak their own inhumane stories.
These ethnographic displays of humans disappeared after World War II, and Hitler was one among the persons who banned them. The last such display was hosted by Belgium in 1958, when a Congolese village was displayed at the Brussels World’s Fair. These stories of Savage exhibitions are told at various museums, like the Quai Branly museum in Paris, mainly through paintings, old photographs, archive film, posters and postcards. Shown in the video below is a brief news report on one such display in Paris that traces history of ‘human zoos’.
From all these stories, it appears like the racism was an intellectual construction that was susceptible to create de-construction in society. In fact a European public that fed on notions of Christian evangelism and cultural superiority became interested in re-enactments of life in the colonies that became a regular part of international trade fairs.
This story of Human Zoos explains how millions of westerners were manipulated into a belief in the inequality of races. What started as fascination and wonder, the African and other human exhibitions later turned into ‘the other’ divisions and racial discrimination. It should help us understand why there is still discrimination in society based on the color of our skins. The savage exhibitions, the suffering and the sadness of our history should teach us modern attitudes towards race – the equality of all people.
Hoax or Fact: