Tintin marks 90th birthday with colonial controversy; heirs of Herge to release 'Tintin in the Congo'

The boy reporter`s adventure in the then Belgian colony was among the first Tintin stories to be serialised by the artist Herge. Photograph:( Reuters )

Reuters Brussels, Belgium Jan 11, 2019, 03.11 PM (IST)

Tintin will mark his 90th birthday this year with a return to controversy as his Belgian creator`s heirs release a new edition of 'Tintin in the Congo', a work from 1930 that draws accusations of racism.

The boy reporter`s adventure in the then Belgian colony was among the first Tintin stories to be serialised by the artist Herge, and his widow`s firm is launching a remastered digital version in colour to celebrate 90 years since the strip cartoon character first appeared in a Brussels newspaper in 1929.

The publishers dismissed suggestions that the story, which features charicatural black Africans with fat, red lips and wearing loincloths, was problematic: "Dialogue is most important and the work of deconstruction, decolonisation, is just as important," Robert Vangeneberg told reporters on Thursday.

However, one Congolese, noted Brussels-based comic book artist Barly Baruti, told Reuters that he felt that bringing out a new edition of the work at a time when nationalist and racist groups appear to be on the rise in Europe was questionable: "We really ask ourselves if it is the right moment," he said.

First issued as a complete album in book form in 1946, 'Tintin in the Congo' features Tintin and his faithful dog Snowy grappling with diamond smugglers and big game hunters.

A Belgian court reject an attempt by Congolese campaigners a decade ago to have the book banned. The judges said it reflected the colonial attitudes of its time and there was no evidence that Herge -- who died in 1983 aged 75 -- had held racist views.

Story highlights

First issued as a complete album in book form in 1946, 'Tintin in the Congo' features Tintin and his faithful dog Snowy grappling with diamond smugglers and big game hunters.