“European Attraction Limited”

Fadlabi (SD) & Lars Cuzner (SE)

In the summer of 1914, during the lavish celebrations held to mark the centenary of Norway’s constitution, 80 Africans were “exhibited” in the so-called Kongolandsbyen or “Congo village” in Oslo’s Frogner Park. The proposal by the artists Fadlabi & Cuzner to stage a re-enactment to coincide with the bicentenary celebrations in 2014 sparked heated debate in both the Norwegian and international media.


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  • European Attraction Limited, 2014 / 1914.
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About the project

About the project

The two artists aimed to encourage Norwegians to reflect on what they believed to be a collective failure to acknowledge Norwegian racism. In the original Congo village in 1914, a group of Senegalese men, women and children formed part of of a larger Jubilee Fair that was intended to showcase cultural life, progress and colonialism in relation to all aspects of modern Norway. What today would be considered a human zoo, was then viewed as part of the process of nation-building that the centenary celebrations were designed to promote. The organizers of the 1914 Jubilee Fair, held under the patronage of King Haakon VII, included some of the most prominent men in Norwegian society. The fair attracted throngs of visitors to the capital, and for long afterwards was referred to as the “Fairytale at Frogner”. Despite the enormous number of visitors – 1.4 million people during the five months the fair was open – subsequently the event has received surprisingly little attention.

Fadlabi & Cuzner relaunched the concept of the Congo village in 2011. The previous year they had come across some accounts of the Jubilee Fair and were surprised about the current lack of awareness about the event, which had been something of a sensation in 1914. Two years later, Fadlabi & Cuzner arranged a conference with art theorists and academics with the aim of debating topics such as racism, antiracism, entertainment and cultural domination, and also possible ways of recreating the Congo village.

The project provoked strong reactions at all stages, and several times the plans were nearly scrapped because of fears about the possible consequences. The artists deliberately disseminated contradictory information about how they planned to adapt this historical event to our own times: among other things, they fuelled speculation about their intention to “exhibit” people from Africa. Organisations campaigning against racism feared that the event would be a straightforward copy of the original 1914 village and would promote racist attitudes by stigmatizing people with African backgrounds.

Just a few weeks before the exhibition opened, the artists announced that anyone at all, regardless of national origin or skin colour, could participate in the project as an “exhibition object”. When the Congo village opened, exactly 100 years after the original event, there was considerable uncertainty about precisely who comprised the audience and who was on display.

Through their staging of the event, Fadlabi & Cuzner aimed to create awareness of the changes in attitudes that in fact have taken place in the past 100 years, as well as shedding light on a forgotten and shameful event in Norway’s recent past.

Publikasjoner

Publikasjoner

Facts

Facts

Address

Frognerparken, Oslo

Date

15.05.2014 - 31.08.2014

Producer (URO)

Bo Krister Wallström

Project manager

Alette Schei Rørvik

Architect

Nicolaj Zamecznik

Ingeniør

Haug og Holm-Bakke AS v/ Øistein Pettersen

Lyd

Eidotech

Project partner

Stiftelsen Fritt Ord

Producer

KORO (URO)

Program

Art scheme for outdoor public spaces (URO)

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