Congolese campaigner Bienvenu Mbutu Mondondo had spent the past five years trying to persuade the Belgian courts to ban 1946’s Tintin in the Congo on the grounds of racism. The book was the second in the Tintin series by Belgian artist Hergé, and was originally serialised in 1931 before being issued in book form in 1946. The Congo depicted by Hergé was one that existed in the artist’s imagination only. He had never left Belgium when he created the narrative that saw his fictional journalist encounter diamond smugglers and big game hunters. And, of course, black people. Black people described by the UK’s Commission for Racial Equality as “look[ing] like monkeys and talk[ing] like imbeciles”.
In 2011, following the release of Steven Spielberg’s film The Adventures of Tintin, it emerged that copies of the comic book were being sold in a sealed wrapper out of awareness for their controversial contents. Publishers also printed a caveat in the books, saying that Hergé “depicted the African people according to the bourgeois, paternalistic stereotypes of the period”.
But on Monday a Belgian court found this insufficient to ban the book, deciding that the book reflected the (European) attitudes of the time and thus did not contravene existing anti-racism laws. “It is clear that neither the story, nor the fact that it has been put on sale, has a goal to… create an intimidating, hostile, degrading or humiliating environment,” said the judgment. Mondondo has indicated he will appeal. DM
Photo: Tintin in the Congo has not been found to be racist and will not be banned. (Original cover)
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