A bunch of bananas and a strong accent: uproar over racist ride in French theme park

Screen capture from the video of the 'Africa Cruise' ride at Nigloland, France.
Screen capture from the video of the 'Africa Cruise' ride at Nigloland, France.

French theme park Nigloland is at the centre of a storm of online fury over a "racist" animatronics display in one of its rides.

In the 'Africa Cruise' ride at the park in Dolancourt in northeastern France, visitors sit on a boat for a safari-style experience, going past different attractions. In one display along the river, two characters are stuck up a tree, trying to escape the robotic rhinoceros underneath them. The white man is wearing a pith helmet, while the black man is wearing a fez and carrying a bunch of bananas in one hand. The spectacle also comes with audio effects: the white man is saying, "Stop talking Bounama, and help me climb onto this branch before my trousers start looking like a sieve!" The black character has an exaggerated, stereotypically 'African' accent when he speaks, and calls the white character 'boss' several times.

A visitor to the park filmed the ride and posted it on Twitter, writing indignantly, "I went to Nigloland and I saw this. I want to know if you find this normal??"

Nigloland beseiged with indignant messages

The tweet quickly gained traction, with many people commenting that the scene was racist. Lots of commenters called on Nigloland to explain itself.

"@Nigloland, Hello, could you enlighten us as to the point of this kind of caricature that strangely resembles colonial – and obviously racist – images?"

"So basically they've put a black man up a tree with bananas in his hand; pretty sure that's a reference to monkeys if I'm not wrong".

"Shocking that this can still exist. Boycott this park and its colonialist kicks from another era. And it's only now that this comes out, better late than never."

The theme park's response

Nigloland apologised on Twitter, writing, "We apologise to those we could have offended with one of the scenes from 'Africa Cruise'. We listen to our visitors and always want to improve the quality of the park; we will change the scene in question this weekend. Thank you for your understanding."

The FRANCE 24 Observers team contacted the theme park's management team, which said that the park "had nothing to gain from showing racist scenes".

Since 2013, 4.6 million visitors have gone on this ride. It's in the top four rides. There have been no complaints before.

The park's management team decided to change the display in question as soon as possible. The bananas have been taken out, and the dialogue between the two characters over the speaker has been cut too. As well as this, when the park closes for the winter, we are planning a total re-do of this display.

We understand that it could be offensive, but Nigloland has nothing to gain from showing racist or homophobic scenes or expressing political opinions. The park is open to everyone.

It's not the first time that racist images have caused a scandal in France. In February this year, there was outrage after someone posted a video showing a cake in a French bakery in Lyon called a 'Mamadou', covered in dark chocolate and with big, caricatured, red lips, like an old-fashioned racist stereotype of an African person. The bakery removed the cake from sale after the uproar.

Only a couple of months later, a mural in France's National Assembly was criticised because of similar racist images – the mural had been created to commemmorate the abolition of slavery in the country in 1974.

>> READ ON THE OBSERVERS: French National Assembly criticised for mural depicting racist stereotypes

Article written by Syrine Attia (@Syrine_Attia).