Calls to remove ‘vile’ Luna Park sign
A MUM has called for Luna Park to remove a "vile" caricature from its Coney Island section, describing the 84-year-old artwork as "racist as f**k".
The sign, which dates back to the heritage-listed park's opening in 1935, depicts a woman at a fortune-telling machine, which reads, "You will meet a dark gentleman soon."
Standing to the side of the machine is a dark-skinned man with exaggerated features. "Why the f**k is this still on the wall at Luna Park?" the woman wrote in a local Facebook group yesterday. "The caricature is vile."
The post attracted more than 130 comments. Many slammed the theme park while a small number disagreed. The woman later deleted the post, saying she couldn't believe people were defending the image.
Reached for comment via Facebook, the mum said her daughter was "shocked" when she noticed the sign during a visit to the park yesterday. She emailed Luna Park guest relations this morning with her concerns.
"I was there yesterday with my daughter and she noticed a sign in Coney Island on the back wall just at the beginning of the little 'obstacle course' that we thought was very outdated and racist in nature," the email said.
It noted the depiction of the dark-skinned man with "extremely exaggerated facial features" was "akin to some of the caricatured depictions of old (Minstrels and Golliwogs)".
"Those portrayals have time and again been deemed very racist as the underlying message is making fun of the subject in a very demeaning fashion," she said.
"My 10-year-old and her friend were shocked that it was there and thought the white woman looked very normally drawn, while the ethnic man looked cartoonish and was obviously the butt of some very old humour that is not acceptable. We hold annual passes and would really like to see this awful image removed from the wall."
A spokeswoman for Luna Park declined to comment but provided a photograph of a sign that appears next to the artwork and requested it be published for context.
"Great care has been taken to present Coney Island to you today in the same way it was presented to park guests in the 1930s and 40s," the sign reads.
It notes that "many of the themes reflect the culture, attitudes and customs of another time". Visitors are warned that some of the paintings "may be considered politically incorrect" but have been preserved for their "social, cultural and artistic value for your appreciation, reflection and enjoyment".
"We do ask that you view the paintings with this context in mind, and understand that the themes do not necessarily represent the views of a modern audience, or the park's operator, Luna Park Sydney," it says.
In recent years, there has been a similar backlash against the sale of golliwog dolls, black-skinned characters with exaggerated lip features and frizzy hair that were popular in the UK and Australia in the 1970s.
Last year the Royal Adelaide Show was forced to remove a number of golliwog dolls from display after an outcry on social media, while in 2016 Terry White Chemists banned their sale after a Toowoomba store placed the toys under a sign inviting shoppers to "Experience a white Christmas".
There have also been growing calls from the left to pull down statues and other historical monuments that reflect a racist past, prompting pushback from those on the right who argue history should be preserved.
In the US, the debate has largely been around Confederate monuments. The 2017 Unite the Right Rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, in which neo-Nazi James Fields Jr. murdered Heather Heyer, began as a protest against the removal of a statue of General Robert E. Lee.
In Australia, a similar debate has swirled around statues of colonial figures like James Cook, Lachlan Macquarie and William Charles Wentworth. In 2017, a number of statues in Sydney's Hyde Park were vandalised and spray painted with the words "change the date" and "no pride in genocide".