I don’t like animal zoo’s. I love zoo cookies. I don’t mind human zoo’s, since humans are the strangest species of all.
Human zoos were major events from the mid-19th Century until the Second World War.
I have a friend who told me that her parents visit the shopping mall every Saturday and sit at a coffee shop and ‘watch’ all the people. Apparently they have a great time. Thus a major event for them in the 21st century. The shopping mall as a zoo.
This made me think about the exhibition which I unfortunately missed at this year’s Grahamstown festival called: Exhibit A, by Brett Bailey.
you can see more lovely pictures here:
The festival program states: “This exhibition of live Africans provides an opportunity for you to gaze at a variety of people from different parts of the continent – to have a good, hard look at ‘Difference’ – and maybe to reach some kind of understanding.”
There is a short video where Brett talks about the show: http://cuetv.ru.ac.za/?p=2149 where he states that shame is a major theme in the work.
Is it really that shameful to be looked at? Does it depend on how you are looked at? Actors love to be looked at. Art needs to be looked at. The people at the mall probably don’t know that they are being looked at. This also made me think again about the whole Saartjie Baartman issue. Sarah “Saartjie” Baartman was the most famous woman from South Africa who were exhibited as a freak show in 19th-century Europe under the name Hottentot Venus.
Is it really that bad to be called a freak? Is a freak not just somebody/something that is really special?