The phenomenon of human zoos, exhibited in Europe, served to establish economic expansionist principles by constructing notions of the savage, the exotic and the others. From 1815 to 1958, they signified the popularization of European racism and the legitimization of conquest over the territories of these non-European places. From 1874, with Germany taking the lead, the animal trader Karl Hagenbeck was the artificer of human zoos. He staged shows featuring individuals from “exotic” peoples. In the first year he received one million visitors.

On May 6th, 1889, the Universal Exposition was held in Paris. As part of the celebration of the Revolution and its motto of Equality, Fraternity and Liberty, Selk’nam people kidnapped from Tierra del Fuego were exhibited as savages along with other aborigines. The Lumière brothers made films of the exhibition, recording its multitudinous attendance and the enjoyment of these human exhibits. The Jardin d’Acclimatation, in Paris, was one of the places built as a scenography to exhibit animals, plants and “savages”.

The “scientific gaze” also helped to emphasize the cultural differences between Western and non-European nations. For this purpose, this gaze on these bodies will be collected. In Darwin’s travel diaries one can read that he considered the Fuegians as “the most abject and miserable creatures.” Darwin came to the false conviction that the natives practiced cannibalism. These “scientific” conclusions became popular from 1850 onwards. In those years appeared the Essay on the Inequality of Human Races (1853) by the French writer Joseph Arthur de Gobineau, the initial work of the racist philosophy. His thesis, based on the racial factor, states that the Aryan racial superiority lies in “the monopoly of beauty, intelligence, and strength”.

The exhibition ZOO takes this cultural, social and geopolitical phenomenon of human zoos in Europe, and addresses it in a display of works including installation, paintings, videos, graphics, and objects, to make explicit the magnitude of its influence in relation to the long period of exhibition of the phenomenon (more than a century) and the geopolitical and urban extension of the same in different European cities. The curatorial proposal divides these two aspects into a Cartography room (Red Room) and a Racist Discursive Assimilation room (Blue Room). Through a series of maps, paintings and objects arranged on the wall, the work proposes an immersion in this hidden history that maintains a current relevance through the supremacist discourses that have emerged.

RACE (2020) – Voluspa Jarpa

Museo del Hombre Hegemónico
Case 3: Los zoológicos humanos – La institucionalización del colonialismo y la popularización del racismo científico

Archive: RAZA_Caso 3_Zoo.mp4
Link Youtube: https://youtu.be/EuKc0w-aokI

Human Zoo’s Visitors

Museo del Hombre Hegemónico
Caso 3: Los zoológicos humanos – La institucionalización del colonialismo y la popularización del racismo científico

Archivo: P23_Human Zoo_200mb.mp4
Link Youtube: https://youtu.be/5orD1xHl3Ro

Tipo de Investigación:
BIENALSUR 2021: Al sur del sur


  • Políptico estudios urbanos (Urban Studies Polyptych)
    Digital print and ink on PVC
  • Línea de tiempo (Timeline)
    Engraved two-layer ABS on PVC
  • Serie zoológicos humanos - emplazamientos (Human Zoo Series – Settlements)
    8 fine art prints on paper
  • Serie Clasificados
 (Classified Series)
    20 oil and pigment on canvas
  • Herramientas medición (Measuring Tools)
    5 wooden and metal objects
  • Tribu Kawésqar (Kawésqar Tribe)
    Oil on canvas
  • Catrillanca
    Oil on canvas
  • Públicos zoológicos humanos (Human Zoos Publics)
  • RACE (RACE) 
  • Sobre la desigualdad de las razas (On the inequality of races)
    Print on folded aluminum composite
  • Mapa desplazamiento de pueblos exhibidos 
(Displacement Map of Exhibited People)
    Digital print on PVC, cut vinyl, elastic thread and bronze nails
  • Políptico atlas zoos humanos (Human Zoos Atlas Polyptych)
    7 digital prints on polyester paper with manual ink intervention and 13 pencil, ink, and watercolor drawings on paper, in acrylic supports
  • Serie Cartografía de la colonización
    8 digital prints on polyester paper, collage, ink and colored pencils
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