They say : “a picture is worth a thousand words”, but …
This cartoon, published by the Algerian cartoonist Ghilas Ainouche from TSA (Tout sur l’Algérie, online francophone newspaper), shamefully depicts racist stereotypes and revives the old colonial Kabyl myth in postcolonial Algeria… Astonishingly, this cartoon did not draw any criticism in Algeria ; neither officials nor intellectuals reacted to this racist caricature.
The controversial caricature with the provocative heading : “Once again la Kabylie ranked first in the (BEM) and (BAC) national exams” represents two groups of people: the Kabyls and… the rest of Algerians.
The kabyls are depicted as “intelligent” because they are ranked first in the BAC and BEM national exams ; and “beautiful” because Miss Kabilya is a Caucasian blonde with blue eyes.
The rest of Algerians are depicted as not intelligent since they are not ranked first in BAC and BEM exams, and not beautiful since Miss “The rest of Algeria” is not a Caucasian blonde but… a fat, not so pretty brunette. And the presence in this group of a bearded man wearing traditional clothes implies religious fundamentalism as the overweight officer implies military power.
And… as if these stereotypes are not racist enough, the “rest of Algerians” group asks the kabyles : “Please teach us how to become as intelligent and beautiful as you”. And the Kabyls answer : “Sorry it is in (our) genes.” (!)
Meaning : the intelligence and beauty of the Kabyles, assumed by the caricaturist, are genetic. In his cartoon, Ainouche doesn’t simply insinuate a racist idea, he expresses it clearly : Kabyles are genetically more intelligent and more beautiful than the rest of Algerians. Hence…the Kabyls belong to a race, genetically different from the rest of Algerians … and since it is more beautiful and more intelligent …surely superior (!)
Let’s define what racism is :
“Ideologies that classify human beings into different biological races with genetic mental characteristics and which establish a hierarchy of these “biological races” are considered racist. Humanrights.ch
“prejudice, discrimination, or antagonism directed against someone of a different race based on the belief that one’s own race is superior ” . Dictonaries
There is no question that Ainouch’s caricature is racist. It sadly reminds us of white supremacists’ racist speech. This racist ideology openly expressed by the cartoonist Ghilas Ainouche is not surprising at all, knowing he is a fan of Charlie hebdo’s extremists and Islamphobic cartoonists.
What is surprising however, is the silence…the absence of condemnation of such a racist message in my country Algeria. And this silence is simply appalling. Racism is a crime and it should not be tolerated. The cartoonist should have, at least, withdrawn his cartoon and apologized to the Algerian people.
Ultimately, the most disturbing thing with Ainouche’s racist cartoon is that it echoes the old colonial “Kabyl myth”. During French colonization of Algeria, French military ethnologists, anthropologists and historians created a racist representation of Algerian society opposing the so called “Kabyl race” to the “Arab one”. On the human race scale, the Kabyl was represented as closer to Europeans : fair skin, blue eyes, not very religious, sedentary, democrat, and predisposed to be assimilated and civilized by the French, unlike the Arab who was depicted as dark-skinned, nomadic, fundamentalist, and primitive. Sadly, it is these very racist stereotypes of the good Kabyl and the bad Arab that Ainouche shamefully recycled in his cartoon.
The seminal work “Imperial identities, Stereotyping, Prejudice, and Race in Colonial Algeria” by Patricia Lorcin is the most documented academic research on this subject.
This book is a must read to understand how colonial France, created, thanks to its military ethnologists and historians such as Hanotaux, Carette, Daumas and Devaux…, the racist Kabyl myth in order to divide our society and colonize our land…and mind.
Finally, it is such a disgrace to see, in 2017, a young Algerian cartoonist expressing and celebrating a racist ideology so openly, while such ideas are denounced and even criminalized in the rest of the world.
This racist cartoon must become a wake-up call for Algerian academics and intellectuals to finally decolonize the knowledge and culture inherited from colonial french scholarship. It is, indeed, of the utmost importance to debunk all the poisonous myths and lies disseminated in colonial ethnographic and historical french narratives of our country to decolonize the memory and mind of postcolonial Algeria.