Zurich seeks closure from its racist past

ON LIMMAT

There are inscriptions and symbols in the public space of the city that refer to a colonialist ideology - City Hall has heard its citizens: These elements will now be analysed and then either be removed or redesigned - Several visible problematic inscriptions in the historic center will be eliminated by the end of the year - Activists are hoping that a precedent will be created

Zurich seeks closure from its racist past
Zurich wants closure with its racist past

Zurich seeks closure from its racist past

Zurich wants closure with its racist past

Switzerland

The Black Lives Matter demonstrations held in Switzerland and worldwide this past summer furthered the debate against racism in Switzerland and, thanks to a study by the University of Zurich co-funded by the city and released at the end of September, the debate on the city’s involvement in the slave trade in colonial times. Zürich now wants to put an end to those evident signs, which are still present in the public space, of a Xenophobic past. It does so by first thoroughly examining every inscription and artistic representation and then placing them in context or, if necessary, eliminating them. In Niederdorf, Zurich’s Old Town, three visible racist inscriptions on municipal property will be removed by the end of the year. Such elements are part of the history of the City, today, however - writes the City Hall in a note - they make everyone confront the existing racism, a problem that «must not be condoned».

With its decision, the City Executive follows the recommendations of a working group that brought together representatives of various municipal departments. « instructed last summer from developing an overview of the issue following the many letters received from the general public and an appeal from the anti-racism association Kollektiv Vo. Da., which demanded the removal of inscriptions and murals that can be traced to a racist ideology and colonialism in the Niederdorf,« explained Christof Meier, Head of Integration Promotion of the City of Zurich.

The municipal property «Zum Mohrentanz» (»Moorish»), where Café Mohrenkopf (»Moor’s Head») was located, will soon be losing its old sign. It is similar to those (one above a door and the other on a plaque) that appear on two other buildings, also destined to disappear.

But the fate of the representations situated in the Hirschengraben municipal school building, a protected historical building, is different. « These display the exotic vision of foreign nations prevalent in the 19th century,« the statement from City Hall still read. The depictions would fall into a category of objects that «cannot or should not be removed because of their size,« or they become troublesome « only against the background of their historical context.» These objects, in the view of the City Executive, would require «reworking: for instance, by visible contextualizing, by redesigning, or by an artistic enhancement.»

«A milestone»

In a statement the collective Vo. Da. is satisfied: the decision of the City Hall is «a significant milestone», a further «small but important step towards the de-construction of ‘racism’, exclusively invented for the oppression and devaluation of the other». The association is now hoping that Zurich will set a precedent: «Our brief research has revealed that there are properties with identical or similar wording and depictions in Bern, Winterthur, St. Gallen, Baden and Schaffhausen, among other places.»

If the city can act with a certain degree of ease in a public context, it has no direct means of intervention in the case of racists on private property. It can, nevertheless, concentrate on raising awareness. The objective would be for private owners to comply with the approach and the methods chosen by the City. The executive foresees a long process. To maintain a high level of sensitivity on the subject, an exhibition will also be held at the Town Hall.

©CdT.ch - Riproduzione riservata

In questo articolo:

Ultime notizie: OnTheSpot
  • 1
  • 1