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article imageHuman Zoos exhibit at Paris Museum

By Amanda Payne     Jan 23, 2012 in Arts
The Musée du quai Branly in Paris is hosting an exhibition entitled 'Human Zoos: The Invention of the Savage' which runs until June 23 and is curated by Lilian Thuram, a former European footballer.
The exhibition follows the lives of people who were brought from Africa, Asia, the Pacific Islands and the Americas and forced to perform in circuses or be caged up like animals and be put on display in so-called Human Zoos or freak shows.
According to the museum's official website, the exhibition has over 600 paintings, sculptures, photographs artifacts and even movies of the victims of this practise which became very popular in the western world between 1800 and 1958. The website says:
"The exhibition explores the sometimes fine lines between exotic individuals and freaks, science and voyeurism, exhibitionism and spectacle. It also questions visitors on their own contemporary biases."
The Guardian newspaper describes the exhibition as the "most talked about" exhibition in Paris this year. The paper says :
"Millions of spectators turned out to see "savages" in zoos, circuses, mock villages and freak shows from London to St Louis, Barcelona to Tokyo. These "human specimens", and "living museums" served both colonialist propaganda and scientific theories of so-called racial hierarchies."
The curator, Lillian Thuram was born in Guadeloupe in the Caribbean islands and as well as being famous as a footballer has become well known for his work against racism with his own foundation, called the Fondation Lilian Thuram, which is based in France and whose objective states " We must educate against racism. You are not born a racist, you become one"
Thuram holds up as examples the work of Mahatma Gandhi, Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King Jr and others to encourage people of all nations to work together against racism and reminds us that we are all unique as individuals because of who we are not because of the colour of our skin or our religious beliefs.
The exhibition aims to give back "their names to women, men and children used as extras, circus freaks, actors and dancers, by telling their diverse and forgotten stories." The lives and stories of around 35,000 people who were forced into this way of life are told by the exhibits.
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