Norway Artists’ Human Zoo Starts Kenya Twitter War
Norway’s Congo Village art project has triggered a Twitter storm across Africa, with many commentors seeming to wrongly believe that the two artists plan to fill their “human zoo” with real African villagers.
Norwegian-Sudanese artist Mohamed Ali Fadlabi and his Swedish collaborator Lars Cuznor. Photo: Fadlabi website
hashtag protesting the Congo Village project has been used more than 1,500 times in the past 24 hours, spreading rapidly through the Twitter community in Kenya and beyond.
Xtiandela, a Nairobi musician and blogger, who is one of Kenya’s most followed Twitter users, appears to have started the hashtag on Wednesday morning,
“SHOCKING: Africans Being Exhibited like animals in Norway’s Human Zoo,” he tweeted to his 214,000 followers. “Waiting for ==>>#SomeoneTellNorway.”
Soon Kenya’s Twitter community was buzzing.
“Never knew Norwegians are so racist! Africans in zoos now eh?? Obnoxious and Cantagarous!!” wrote Ian Mutuli.
“#SomeoneTellNorway that we will not tolerate putting Africans in Zoos to be viewed like animals as done in 1958,” tweeted Kenyan Sam.
“Africans in zoo cages, thanks Norway for showing the world what bigoted, backward inbreds you really are,” tweeted Oscar Leinreiter.
Norway’s government is funding Norwegian-Sudanese artist Mohamed Ali Fadlabi and his Swedish collaborator Lars Cuznor to recreate Kongolandsbyen, an exhibition of an African village that was part of the 100-year anniversary of Norway’s constitution back in 1914.
However, unlike the organisers of the 1914 exhibition, the two artists are using volunteers from across the Norway, Europe and the world, rather than paying impoverished Africans to take part in the exhibit.
Fadlabi and Cuzner on Wednesday revelled in the new wave of publicity for their project.
“Hahaha Kenyans are going mad!” tweeted Fadlabi. “#someonetellKenya to read a bit further than the headlines :) check .. #someonetellnorway”
The hashtag came on the back of this month’s Twitter war between Kenya and South Africa, which saw the two country’s Twitter communities exchanging taunts with the #someonetellSouthAfrica and #someonetellKenya hashtags.
#someonetellSouthAfrica itself followed #someonetellNigeria and #someonetellZimbabwe Twitter wars, in which Kenyans on Twitter (#KOT) are generally acknowledged to have come out on top.
In the spirit of previous Twitter wars, Kenyan Twitter users resorted to abusing Norwegians for their white skin, boringness, and global irrelevance. One much-retweeted map jokingly compared the drip-shaped European country to a sperm.
To the disappointment of Kenyan Twitter users, however, Norway’s Twitter community, with the exception of Fadlabi himself, failed to take the bait, perhaps reflecting national embarrassment at hosting the zoo in 1914.
A parody account purporting to be Uhuru Kenyatta, Kenya’s President, summed up the disappointment.
“So u think Norwegians will respond with #someonetellKenya? They think Kenya is an event at the Olympics.”