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Tintin? Racist in the Congo

In a Thirties comicbook set in the Congo, African people are depicted as stupid savages. Out of political correctness, Tintin in the Congo has been banished in the UK to the adult section of bookshops, in protective  packaging with warning labels similar to those on explicit magazines.

As the adventures of Tintin come out in 3D in theaters all around the world, the globe-trotting reporter created by Hergé comes back into the spotlight also for accusations of racism.

The debate on the second title in the comicbook series The Adventures of Tintin , written and drawn by Belgian  cartoonist Hergé, originally serialised in comic strips  between June 1930 and July 1931 and updated in 1946, is on again.

Certainly few were surprised when it came out that natives, at the time still under the Belgian colonial yoke, were portrayed as stupid or ferocious savages. In the meantime, however, sensitivity have changed and lately many scowl at the book's overt racism.

Last year, a Congolese citizen filed (in vain) a legal bid in a Brussels court demanding the album be pulled off shelves as “a justification of colonisation and white supremacy”.

"Tintin's coloured aide is presented as a stupid person, without any quality. This encourages readers to think that blacks are not very advanced," denounced campaigner Bienvenu Mbutu Mondondo, also highlighting a scene in which a black woman kneels in front of Tintin saying "White man is good, great leader …".

"The 1931 book’s childlike savages with their blubbery lips and poor French would offend any African child, he said.

A few years ago, similar arguments convinced some libraries in the United Kingdom to banish "Tintin in the Congo" in the adult graphic novels section, but publisher Egmont UK has now gone further.

Fears that "Tintin In The Congo" could have a negative effect on children have led publishers to market it in protective packaging with a warning: "In his portrait of the Belgian Congo, the young Hergé reflects the colonial attitudes of the time. He represented the Africans according to the bourgeois, paternalistic stereotypes of the time, an interpretation that some of today's readers may find offensive. "

Is this a right choice or an instance of anti-historic political correctness? For sure it makes good publicity to revive the Congolese adventures of the ever young (and who knows if racist) Tintin.

Elvio Pasca

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