Sixty years ago, Belgium set up a live display of people from Congo for the 1958 world fair.
It was the world’s last “human zoo”.
A ‘human zoo’ in Belgium in 1897. Photograph: photo R Stalin (Inforcongo), 1958, RMCA Tervuren
The human zoo, Belgium, 1958. Photograph: photo R. Stalin (Inforcongo), 1958, RMCA Tervuren
During the Renaissance, the Medici developed a large menagerie in the Vatican. In the 16th century, Cardinal Hippolytus Medici had a collection of people of different races as well as exotic animals. He is reported as having a troupe of so-called Savages, speaking over twenty languages; there were also Moors, Tartars, Indians, Turks and Africans.
One of the first modern public human zoos was P.T. Barnum's exhibition of Joice Heth on February 25, 1835 and, subsequently, the Siamese twins Chang and Eng Bunker. These exhibitions were common in freak show Another famous example was that of Saartjie Baartman of the Namaqua, often referred to as the Hottentot Venus, who was displayed in London and France until her death in 1815.
Haunting black and white images also show Chief Yellow Hair and his council standing in front of replicas of teepees at a human zoo at the 1904 World's Fair in St Louis, Missouri
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