Negro of Banyoles
The "negro of Banyoles" (Catalan: negre de Banyoles) is a controversial piece of taxidermy of a San person which used to be a major attraction in the Darder Museum of Banyoles (Catalonia, Spain). In 2000, the remains of the man were sent to Botswana for burial.
In the early 1830s, the Verreaux brothers mounted the corpse of a San person. In 1916, it was acquired by the Darder Museum of Banyoles. The body remained in the museum without any controversies until 29 October 1991, when Alphonse Arcelin, a Spanish doctor of Haitian origin living in Cambrils where he was a PSC councillor, wrote a letter to the mayor of Banyoles, asking him to remove the San's remains from public view. The incident attracted the attention of the press which made it widely known.
The first step for the return of the "negre" to Botswana was made in 1991, when the then-secretary of UNESCO, Federico Mayor Zaragoza, met the mayor of Banyoles. Later, when Kofi Annan reached the position of Secretary-General of the United Nations, he became interested in the issue and also spoke with the mayor of Banyoles.
By that time, the "negre" had become so notorious that it was quite usual to hear references made to the mounted San in diplomatic announcements. Some African governments were showing their support for Arcelín, who had sent several letters to the press and various heads of government. The issue worried many international museum associations because it made them fear that human remains kept for research in museums might have to be returned to their original locations.
In 1997, the issue was discussed in several sessions in both the UN and the Organisation of African Unity. Later, in March of that year, the item was removed from the Darder Museum. While it was described in El Mundo as a relic of colonialism. The removal bothered people in Banyoles because there he was considered as "a member of the family".
Return to Africa
Botswana's government offered help to the OAU to bury the man, once all of his remains had been returned to Africa. In 2000, after the loincloth, feathered head-dress and spear he had worn in Banyoles were removed, the body was sent to the National Museum of Anthropology of Madrid where artificial parts including a wooden spine, eyes, hair, genitals and other external organs were removed. The skull and remaining bones were then sent to Botswana in a coffin where they arrived on 4 October. He was buried on 5 October in the national park of Tsolofelo.
The Darder Museum currently avoids any references to the controversy of the "negro of Banyoles". The only remembrance of the San in the museum is a silent video with black and white images shown in a little plasma screen which allows viewers to see the mounted man as he was exposed until being removed from the museum.
- Davies, Caitlin: The Return of El Negro. Johannesburg: Penguin Books 2003.
- Fock, Stefanie: »Un individu de raça negroide«. El Negro und die Wunderkammern des Rassismus. In: Entfremdete Körper. Rassismus als Leichenschändung, ed. Wulf D. Hund. Bielefeld: transcript 2009, pp. 165 – 204.
- Westermann, Frank: El Negro en ik. Amsterdam: Atlas 2004.
- Antón, Jacinto. "Un libro revela que Cuvier conocía al Negro de Banyoles". www.elpais.com (in Spanish). Retrieved 2007-10-26.
- Yániz, Juan Pedro. "Vitrina de la polémica". ABC.es (in Spanish). Retrieved 2007-10-26.
- Moret, Xavier. "De Banyoles a Botswana". elPeriódico.cat (in Catalan). Retrieved 2007-10-26.[dead link]
- Remains disappoint many, 6 October 2000, BOPA Daily News.
- «Lo trataron como a un antílope», El Mundo, 4 October 2000.
- Natalia Iglesias and Pere Duran. "El nuevo Museo Darder evita cualquier referencia a la polémica del 'Negro de Banyoles'". www.elpais.com (in Spanish). Retrieved 2007-10-26.
- "Final feliz para "el negro de Banyoles"". www.elmundo.es (in Spanish). Retrieved 2007-10-26.
- "España sólo devuelve huesos del negro de Banyoles". www.xornal.com (in Spanish). Retrieved 2007-10-31.