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A monument to debate


Is the emblem of a Bern guild racist?

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A 600-year-old statue of a Moor is at the centre of a controversy over whether it reinforces negative racial stereotypes. The Moor is a symbol of a Bern city guild and was the source of its name. (SRF Schweiz Aktuell, swissinfo.ch)

The “Moors guild” was established in the 14th century in the municipality of Bern.

On its coat of arms it bears a Moor’s head. Dark skinned, with thick red lips and wearing a feathered headdress.

A stone statue of the Moor is also to be found in the old part of town. The depiction has sparked a debate on whether it is still appropriate today.

Halua Pinto, a Social Democrat in Bern’s city government, says the statue combines all the stereotypes attributed to black people and therefore should be deemed racist and inappropriate for the public sphere. Pinto has put forward a motion to the Bern city government.

Arguing for the other side of the debate is the head of the guild, Rolf Henzi. He says it should be put into historical context and people should take into consideration that the “Moor” has been the name of the guild’s building for as long as 600 years.