Race concerns stop 'Tintin' Afrikaans translation

Published July 29, 2007

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa - The South African publisher of Tintin in the Congo said it would not release an Afrikaans translation following complaints of racism, local media reported Saturday.

Publisher Human & Rousseau said it had canceled its Afrikaans version of the book in the popular Belgian series because it portrayed Africans in an offensive way, according to SABC radio.

"We felt that it depicted indigenous African people in an unflattering ... stereotypical fashion," spokesman Carina Diedericks-Hugo was quoted as saying on the SABC Web site.

In the 1930 book, Belgian author-cartoonist Georges Remi depicts the white hero's adventures in the Congo against the backdrop of an idiotic, chimpanzeelike native population that eventually comes to worship Tintin - and his dog - as gods.

Afrikaans, the language of the descendants of South Africa's early Dutch settlers, was seen as the language of the oppressive apartheid regime. Attempts to enforce Afrikaans as a medium of instruction was one of the triggers of a June 16, 1976, uprising by students in Soweto.

Much has been done to improve the image of Afrikaans, and it is one of South Africa's 11 official languages, but sensitivities over its use remain.

Alison Lowry, the CEO of Penguin Books South Africa, said the English translation of the French original would still be distributed. According to the SABC Web site, the English version will carry a notice warning of the racial sensitivity of its contents.

The illustrated work by Remi, who wrote under a pen name, is the second in a series of 23 tracing the adventures of Tintin, an intrepid reporter, and his dog, Snowy. The series has sold 220-million copies worldwide and been translated in 77 languages.

Remi later said he was embarrassed by the book.