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Tintin’s ‘racist’ Congo adventure under scrutiny in Belgian court

There is no doubt that “Tintin in the Congo” portrays black Africans in a light that would be unacceptable to modern publishers. But does it remain an important historical representation of the prejudices of the 1920s?

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A Congolese man is trying to get Hergé’s controversial “Tintin in the Congo” banned by a Belgian court because of its racist depictions of black Africans.

Bienvenu Mbutu, who lives in Belgium, Congo’s former colonial ruler, said Tintin employed a little (black) helper who was seen as “stupid and without qualities”.

“It makes people think that blacks have not evolved,” he said.

In one scene, a black woman prostrates herself before Tintin, saying: “White man very great. White mister is big juju man.”

The cartoon strip, written in the late 1920s, is Hergé’s second Tintin adventure. It was followed by stories in which the author tried to inject greater realism and historical accuracy.

Hergé himself recognised that “Tintin in the Congo” was a “youthful sin” that reflected the prejudices of the time.

The court in Brussels will consider whether the book should be banned, or possibly sold with a note across the cover warning that some readers might find the content offensive.

In 2007 a British court ruled that “Tintin in the Congo” should be sold with such a warning.

Mbutu has also tried, unsuccessfully, to have the cartoon banned in France.
 

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