Re-enacting a similar display from 1914, Lars Cuznor and Mohamed
Ali Fadlabi say Norway, one of the richest nations in the world,
with a reputation for tolerance, has only suppressed its
intolerance, especially around the time of Saturday's national day.
The Congo Village - which 100 years ago displayed African tribes,
attracting 1.4 million visitors over four months - will this time
exhibit volunteers taking turns living on show in makeshift huts,
resembling a traditional sub-Saharan village.
"Norwegians have been propagating this self-image of a post-racial
society and it's been internalized that it's a good, tolerant
society," Swedish-Canadian Cuznor told Reuters on Friday. "It's
great branding and it's self perpetuating but it's a false image."
The government-funded display opened just days before Norway
celebrates the 200th anniversary of its constitution on Saturday, a
day marked by parades all over the country with most people dressed
in traditional costumes and waving flags.
"May 17 is the day you feel most foreign and it's also when racism
comes to the surface with debates about whether people have the
right to wear their own costumes or display non Norwegian flags,"
Sudan-born Fadlabi said.
"Norwegians felt superior in 1914 and they still do through their
self image of goodness."
Public Art Norway, the government agency that put up part of the
funding, said the display highlighted questions concerning racism
and cultural dominance.
"The rebuilding can be regarded as a monument to the collective loss
of memory of a shameful part of our history and a platform for
discussion of this historical event, contrasting with Norway today,"
The display, costing 1.4 million crowns ($240,000), has touched off
a fierce online debate about whether Norway really is as racist as
the artists suggest.
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Cuznor says even their exhibition permits hint at the country's
intolerance because they cannot stay overnight, so they do not
attract the homeless or Roma people, he said.
With per capita GDP around $100,000, Norway is among the most
affluent nations and spends about $5 billion of its oil income on
It was also among the first to allow gay people to marry and most
polls show that three-quarters of the population support immigration
and think newcomers are a positive for Norway.
Its image for tolerance was tested in 2011 when an anti-immigration
gunman killed 77 people, mostly teenagers in a summer camp, in a
tirade against Muslim immigrants.
(Editing by Alison Williams)
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