Interesting case… if the court rules in his favor, this could certainly open a Pandora’s Box, as suggested by the attorney for the defendants.
The short story goes… in 2007, Mbuto Mondondo Bienvenu, a Congolese student, filed criminal charges against the publisher’s of the comic book Tintin In Congo, claiming, as his attorney notes, “the commercialisation of a comic book which manifestly disseminates ideas based on racial superiority;” essentially, the depictions of Africans in the comic are racist, and the book should be banned.
4 years later, the case will finally reach Belgian courts to be decided, with hearings scheduled for October 14, this year.
It’s worth noting that Tintin In Congo is a title in the Adventures of Tintin comic book series, which Steven Spielberg has made a movie adaptation of, scheduled to be released in December; although, Tintin In Congo isn’t one of the stories selected for the upcoming film.
Published in the 1930s, Tintin In Congo was written and illustrated by Belgian cartoonist Hergé. The plot centers on Tintin and his dog Snowy, who travel to what was then the Belgian Congo (prior to the country’s independence from European rule) to report on the colony’s status. Of course, while there, Tintin and his dog get into several adventures involving animals, *angry natives*, and American diamond smugglers who work for Al Capone.
While the comic is said to have been a best-seller among Congolese people, there are those who have long criticized it for its depiction of Africans as “infantile and stupid,” and stereotypically drawn.
But, defenders of the book and artist note that it needs to be read within the context of the period in which it was created as well as the perspective from which it came – European; and more specifically, European (Belgian) views of Congolese people in the early 1900s.
Bienvenu’s claims are reportedly backed by the UK Commission for Racial Equality, and it’s worth noting that the comic book is currently being sold in the UK with a parental warning sticker.
A court date to hear arguments is set for October 15th in Brussels, with a final ruling likely made soon thereafter, in December, right in time for the release of Spielberg’s film, as Africa Is A Country notes.
So, is this a form of censorship? Or is there a case to be made here?
It reminds me of the hoopla earlier this year over Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn, and the replacement of the word “nigger” with “slave.” Also, there were the old cartoons from the early half of the 20th century, which have also come under scrutiny.
I’ve actually never read Tintin In Congo, but I found enough pages of it online, and you can as well.