July 12, 2007 / 1:53 PM / 12 years ago

Foundation defends Tintin against racism charge

BRUSSELS (Reuters Life!) - A foundation which protects the rights of Tintin author Hergé leaped to his defense on Thursday after criticism from a British racism watchdog.

A visitor walks past an original drawing of Tintin during an exhibition at the Centre Pompidou modern art museum in Paris, in this file photo from December 19, 2006. A foundation which protects the rights of Tintin author Hergé leaped to his defense on Thursday after criticism from a British racism watchdog. REUTERS/Benoit Tessier

The Hergé foundation said the 1931 “Tintin in the Congo” comic book — one of 23 books which track the adventures of the fictional young journalist and his trusty dog Snowy — should be read in the context of the period when it was published.

“The context is outdated ... what’s left are the jokes,” Marcel Wilmet, a spokesman for the Hergé foundation said in reply to a recommendation from Britain’s Commission for Racial Equality (CRE) that the book be removed from bookshops.

The CRE said on Wednesday that the contents of the book were blatantly racist and that it had received a complaint from a member of the public.

“This book contains imagery and words of hideous racial prejudice, where the ‘savage natives’ look like monkeys and talk like imbeciles,” the CRE said.

The Hergé foundation said the book is meant to be about fun and jokes and does not glorify the widely accepted notions about imperialism, race and ethnicity which were prevalent in Western society during the early 20th century when the book was written.

“During those times great hunters were admired as tennis players are today,” Wilmet said.

Hergé, Tintin and most specifically “Tintin in the Congo” are no stranger to criticism.

Critics have accused Tintin’s Belgian creator — whose real name was Georges Rémi — of collaborating with the Nazis during World War Two and of being anti-Semitic. The Congo comic book has also been blasted for its scenes of violence against animals.

Supporters say some Tintin books championed native populations, in particular native Americans, in the face of business-minded whites.

The tufty-haired Tintin first appeared in 1929 and featured in adventures until 1976, selling more than 200 million copies worldwide.

Additional reporting by Jonna Dagliden

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