In 2004 the Kunstmann Publishing House released the first “Guide of Mishearings” (orig. “Das Handbuch des Verhörens”, Axel Hacke, illustrations: Michael Sowa). Its title: “Der weiße Neger Wumbaba (“Wumbaba the white ‘Neger'”).

Despite the protest of black and white people against the inconsiderate use of the N-word and the reproduction of racist stereotypes, a second volume was released by the title “Der weiße Neger Wumbaba kehrt zurück (“The return of Wumbaba, the white ‘Neger'”).

The cover of both books depict the racist image of a N (thick lips, overweight, grass skirt, a bone in his hair), based on a notion of “race” that goes back to the time of colonialism and the Third Reich, even though the stereotyped figure has been provided with a white skin colour. This word-image-combination derives its purported “fun/humour” from the ostensible contradiction of white skin and a “typical N’s” supposed features and symbols.  The books consist of a collection of “mishearings”. It remains unclear, why of all mishearings it was “Der Weiße Neger Wumbaba” (originally ” der weiße Nebel wunderbar” i.e. “The wonderful white mist”, a line in the poem “der Mond ist aufgegangen”, “The moon has risen” by Matthias Claudius) that had to be used as cover and title, which indicates that the main motivation was the creation of a controversial titel. The N-word is an insult that stands for the dehumanisation, abuse, vilification and discrimination of black people. Therefore it cannot be used for white people’s amusement and entertainment, whether addressing individuals directly or a group of people indirectly (as in the case of the white N). Racism is a problem that people of colour have to confront on a daily basis.

The creation of a racist brand figure (or icon) (the “Wumbaba”-figure is now available as a plastic key fob ) cannot be justified by pointing to the “harmlessness of the book’s content” or by claiming artistic freedom.

Racism is never harmless. Artistic freedom has to be used in a responsible way. It ends, where other people’s freedom is being constrained – as in this case the freedom of not being confronted with racist language and imagery in public spaces and in “entertainment” publications. Racist, violent terms have to be criticised, not commercially abused. The dehumanisation that is intrinsically tied to such racist language and imagery, has to be ended, not reproduced.  In 2008 the publisher intends to release a third book by the title ” Das Vermächtnis des weißen Negers Wumbaba” (“The Legacy of Wumbaba, the white ‘Neger'”). 

We call upon the Kunstmann Publishing House, to provide the third book with a non-racist cover and title. We furthermore demand a statement and an apology concerning the cover design of the already published “Wumbaba”-books and the immediate cessation of the commercial abuse of racist imagery through the “Wumbaba”-icon. 

This petition is supported by: 

der braune mob e.V. media-watch – Schwarze Deutsche in Medien und Öffentlichkeit

ISD-Bund e.V . – Initiative Schwarze Menschen in Deutschland

ADEFRA e.V. – Schwarze deutsche Frauen und Schwarze Frauen in Deutschland

Ade Bantu, musician, activist and founder of Brothers Keepers

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