Two French teachers have released a petition to eliminate a parliament mural commemorating the abolition of slavery, which they said was a racist, humiliating and dehumanizing depiction of black people.
Mame-Fatou Niang, an accomplice professor of French at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, and Julien Suaudeau, who lectures in Pennsylvania, said the substantial mural hung in a building in France’s National Assembly for 28 years should be taken down. It was created in 1991 by French artist Hervé di Rosa to commemorate France’s first abolition of slavery in 1794.
“Its presence – in entire indifference – on the coronary heart of one the highest sites of the Republic adds insult to damage,” the lecturers wrote in an open letter in L’Obs mag. “It is historically unacceptable and politically incomprehensible. We demand the elimination of this wall of shame.”
Niang and Suaudeau stated they understood that di Rosa’s style – across comedian art, kids artwork, and technology fiction – had often featured outsized lips. But they said, in this context, commemorating the abolition of slavery with black faces with massive blue eyes and massive lips turned into a “humiliating and dehumanizing” vision reminiscent of antique racist and colonialist imagery, which includes France’s Banania hot-chocolate ads, the comic ebook Tintin within the Congo and the grotesque, grinning blackface imagery of America’s Twenties Coon Chicken Inn restaurants.
The petition comes quickly after students at Paris’ Sorbonne college canceled a performance wherein they had been accused of the usage of blackface. Niang instructed the Guardian: “This artist is completely free to create his work. But I even have a hassle with this work being made to commemorate the abolition of slavery and is located in the National Assembly. When you’re in front of a piece of commemoration, you must be reflective – no longer indignant or disgusted.”
She found the mural final year while she becomes invited to the French parliament to display screen her documentary Marianne’s Noires. When Niang first shared her reaction to the mural on social media, a teenage French female wrote to her, saying: “I noticed it throughout a faculty visit, I become so taken aback, and the lads have been laughing, and I couldn’t recognize what I changed into seeing. One of the teachers was lost for words. Another black instructor turned into anger.”
The French parliament press office stated the National Assembly had not commented on the petition. Suaudeau, who teaches at Bryn Mawr College within the US, stated the reality that the mural had hung for so long without French lawmakers reacting showed a lack of awareness on race issues. “This is about exploring the blind spots of our history,” he stated.
The artist Hervé di Rosa instructed Le Monde his response changed into one of “overall incomprehension.” He said: “My characters – something their shade, gender or physical traits – have always had big crimson lips.” He told French TV he become “stunned” by the petition.
Sophia Rosenfeld, a records professor at the University of Pennsylvania, who is a professional at the records of French democracy, told the Guardian: “The iconography of the state – and its leader websites – ought to mirror the state’s maximum values. In a democracy like France, that needs to include the essential dignity of all human beings.”
She said: “The trouble with the mural in the French parliament is that it rightly celebrates the abolition of chattel slavery while additionally denying dignity to those most tormented by slavery’s horrors: peoples of African descent. That’s a pernicious message for the French nation – or any country – to be conveying in 2019.”