4 April 2012

Tintin Au Congo

If you're unfamiliar with Tintin and you missed this movie (did anyone actually see it?) The Adventures of Tintin is a famous series of Belgian comic books. First written in the 30s, they've seen many translations since. One of the most famous is Tintin au Congo. Still today, it doesn't take long to notice Tintin's presence "au Congo." Along the streets in Kinshasa there's quite a variety of Tintin memorabilia. Paintings of the famous book cover, wooden carvings of Tintin's car, even a favorite spot for beers along the river is called Chez Tintin.

The Adventures of Tintin by Debarshi Ray, on Flickr
He's everywhere!
Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic License  by  Debarshi Ray 

A few summers ago Adam and I were in Paris and I bought Tintin au Congo. It's fun looking for the differences between the original and updated versions. Check out this link for a re-drawing of the original.

The original cartoon says, "My dear friends, today I'm going to talk to you about your native land, Belgium."


And in the "more politically correct" rewriting, "We're going to start with some addition exercises. Who can tell me what 2 + 2 equals?...No one...Come on, 2+2? 2+2 equals...?"

Really the rewrite isn't much better.

I asked Mama Youyou yesterday to tell me what she thought of Tintin. Pretending like I didn't know the word for "racist" in French, (it's raciste, ha!) I tried to lead her into telling me how horrible Tintin is.

"So Mama Youyou, what do you think of Tintin. He's so...hmm, what's the word?"
She guesses, "colonialiste?"
"No, not really. You know, how he's so mean about Congolese people..."
She says, "Européen?"
"No Mama Youyou, work with me here! They even tried to ban Tintin au Congo in Belgium!"
Her final guess for the word I'm looking for is, "blanc!?"

So Mama Youyou wasn't the best person to rile up over Tintin. I tried the progressive, activist French tutor, Tchic.
"Tchic, surely you think Tintin's racist."
"Ha, yeah he's funny. Read me some of the controversial pages."
"Well, that's about every page, but I'll find a few."

I start reading to him and he giggles, then chuckles, then is actually holding his stomach about to fall off the chair. Especially over the closing page. Check out the image here.

Excerpts from the dialogue here are in broken French written to make the locals look like fools. For example, a translation, "Me find Tintin's machine..." (referring to Tintin's camera). And "If you no be good, you'll never be like Tintin."

In the upper left corner there's a Congolese man kneeling to alters of Tintin and his dog Milou.

Of course, Tintin's incredibly offensive and racist. But as most Congolese I've talked to say, he's part of their history. Sure, he's stupid. He's colonialist. He's European. And really not much more than a funny-looking Belgian boy.

Tintin meets my new flash - DSC_4777 by Dylan Parker, on Flickr
Oh, Tintin.
Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic License  by  Dylan Parker 

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