A different side of our Luxembourgish history

By Jang KapgenLex Kleren

The Schueberfouer has always reflected the zeitgeist of Luxembourgish society. In times of Luxembourgish colonial involvement, this meant that the fair was a platform to propagate and cement racist stereotypes. Lëtzebuerger Journal talked to a historian and an anti-racist activist to understand a different side of our beloved Luxembourgish history.

This year’s Schueberfouer ends September 11. With its last day coming to an end, it is the perfect time to remember the history of the fair which has been putting us in awe for centuries – to be exact, since October 20, 1340. The Schueberfouer has seen Luxembourg change over the year as much as we have seen the fair change – or maybe both can’t actually be that easily distinguished from each other. Either way, one thing is clear: When we look back on our and the Schueberfouer’s past, we need to remember our history and acknowledge its implications.

Human zoos at the Schueberfouer

Régis Moes is a historian at the Nationalmusée um Fëschmaart, which was formerly named Musée National d’Histoire et d’Art (MNHA), and was involved in curating Luxembourg’s first extensive exhibition about its colonial history Luxembourg’s Colonial Past in 2022. He knows that the Schueberfouer’s history cannot be understood as simple or innocent. "Between 1836 and 1936, people from Asia and Africa were regularly showcased at ethnological expositions in Luxembourg – either at the Schueberfouer, at circuses or at bigger venues during special events." Visitors could pay entry and see humans from Asia or Africa behind bars, acting as if they were in an "African" village. "Approximately, up until World War I, these people were forced to be there." Kidnapped from their homes in colonised regions, these people were put behind bars to be toured throughout Europe, to be looked at and even touched by visitors. "The Schueberfouer was the mirror image of the time we lived in. There were people who wanted to make money and who were eager to engage in these exploitations."

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