Black people from #Somalia in the zoo of Basel, 1930
Black people – and sometimes American natives – were brought since the 16th century by the explorers from the new continents to Europe where they belonged, together with exotic creatures, monkeys, lamas, parrots, to the spectacles of princely courts.
The 1870s onwards when, with the emancipation of the bourgeoise, museums of natural history and zoos were opened across Europe as intellectual heirs of the princely cabinets de curiosités,it was considered self-evident that the presentation of exotic fauna also includes black people.
At the turn of the century already the zoos in fifteen European cities – including London, Berlin, Basel, Antwerp, and even the Russian Warsaw – offered this attraction.
The inhabitants of the African colonies were first exposed in cages, and later in “ethnographic villages” where whole families lived their “traditional form of life” before the eyes of white visitors.
And this, dear friends, is part of the reason why I HATE the word exotic being used to describe human beings.