"Africa is, indeed, coming into fashion." - Horace Walpole (1774)


i just threw up in my mouth a little

Texas in Africa reader Dustyn Winder, who keeps a great record of stories about development and foreign aid horrors on his blog, sent me this today. I am mostly speechless. We'll just let the FOX Business story/thinly veiled press release speak for itself:i
Visiting families will be thrilled with the unveiling of Schlitterbahn Waterpark Resort's latest blockbuster sensation, the Congo River Expedition, a multi-sensory jungle adventure scheduled to open this summer.

Deep in the heart of the rainforest guests discover an ancient river teeming with wild animals, restless natives, thundering waterfalls and a mysterious underground diamond mine.

After crossing makeshift rope bridges, guests enter the Congo River Outpost gaining access to the exploration campsite. Towering over the encampment is a giant angry volcano on the edge of eruption. As the epicenter of the outpost begins to rumble warning of an eminent explosion, the volcano vents plumes of steam before blasting water more than 20 feet in the air!

It goes on from there. But the piece de resistance? Why, the list of animatronic "creatures" in the jungle, which ends with the "restless natives." Natch:

The adventure continues as guests float at the will of the water's current and encounter a variety of special effects and animatronic creatures including a mischievous monkey; angry, snapping crocodiles; a ferocious lion; a menacing, coiled python; a mammoth, trumpeting elephant and an agitated tribe of natives ready to attack without warning.
Oh. My. Freaking. Word.

I really don't know what to say. Part of me is completely horrified that the family-friendly folks down at Schlitterbahn have apparently taken a page from the 1958 Brussels World's Fair . I would never consider giving them money to see one of the single most offensive things of which I've ever heard.

(Note to the gang in New Braunfels: having downloadable "desktop tribal art" doesn't make this okay. It especially doesn't make it okay given that lions don't live anywhere near the Congo River. Because lions? They're savannah animals. They don't like deep, dark jungles. Like the one that surrounds all 2,000 miles of the Congo River. Also, that "mysterious underground diamond mine"? Those are blood diamonds. Now I'm no expert on the Disneyfication of Texas-based waterpark dynasties. But I'm going to go out on a limb here and suggest that perhaps you don't want your family-friendly fun park associated with small children dying in mineshafts because of the West's greed for industrial diamonds. You know, just maybe.)

The other part of me thinks it may be time to invite you all out for the first annual Texas in Africa field trip/protest in New Braunfels sometime in July.


Blogger Michael said...

Well I think the sentence beginning with a list of "creatures" and ending with a "native tribe" is probably just a poorly worded sentence. I seriously doubt Schlitterbahn is purposely calling African tribes creatures.

As for the tribe that is ready to attack section, that probably isn't the best thing to say. They should get rid of that.

All that being said, I think you are looking a little too deep into this. I have a hard time believing that this is the "single most offensive" thing you have seen. Some stupidity? Yes. Wholly and purposely offensive?. No.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009 2:13:00 PM

Blogger Dustyn Winder said...

Purposely? No. Wholly? Absolutely.

Intent doesn't matter. It's ignorant and small. It's imperialistic, and I see no defense for it.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009 2:43:00 PM

Blogger Michael said...

Intent does matter. I'm not saying that are right. I'm saying they are wrong, but probably meant no harm. Yes, it is ignorant, but lets not jump to conclusions and act like this will be the end of decency as we know it.

These folks are trying to create a waterpark adventure not a historically or politically accurate piece of art. Nor are they trying to offend. Let's not hold them up to some high standard as if we are the end all be all of what is allowed in society.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009 3:42:00 PM

Anonymous Michael Westmoreland-White said...

There is such a thing as "willfull ignorance." And unintentionally offending in this way falls there. To FAIL TO UNDERSTAND why people would object to exploitive animatronic characterizations of "African tribes"--drawn from Tarzan movies, it seems--is to have lived in a WASP bubble for 50 years!

This stands in sharp contrast to the new HBO series (based on novels by Aledander McCall Smith, a white Botswanan) "The Number 1 Ladies' Detective Agency" which shows a positive, family friendly, picture of life in Botswana (the most successful post-colonial African nation). It doesn't hide the AIDS epidemic (although Botswana is dealing with this better than most African nations), the child kidnappings, or the domestic violence. But these are not front and center of the show. And it is something positive that Westerner's can see about Africa.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009 6:35:00 PM

Blogger texasinafrica said...

Although I hear the accents on the HBO series are atrocious...

Wednesday, April 01, 2009 7:21:00 PM

Anonymous Michael Westmoreland-White said...

Well, I don't have a good enough ear to know. I know they are using many actual Botswanans for extras and smaller roles and I know they are using local dialogue coaches. But my African friends are from the West Coast (Liberia and Sierra Leone) and from South Africa. I have never met someone from Botswana and am just looking into its history and life, now.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009 8:09:00 PM

Blogger texasinafrica said...

Michael #1, I completely understand your point. I don't think this was intentional. It's just a water park. But that's the problem. The way this is being done suggests a total lack of effort to go beyond stereotypes. That dehumanizes the very real people who live in the DRC, and it presents a false picture to the children who'll go through that ride this summer. The Congolese are not savages in the jungle. They're people. They're families. And I think that deserves to be recognized.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009 11:59:00 PM

Blogger Alexis said...

i'd be happy to come protest! Then afterward, we can go right next door to Prince Solms park where you can get the natural tubing experience without the "Disneyfication of Texas-based waterpark dynasties".

Thursday, April 02, 2009 8:56:00 AM


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