Racism in a beer logo (2012)

In 2012 activists in Vorarlberg, Austria, drew attention to a local brewery, Mohrenbrauerei, whose logo has long been the silhouette of an African man’s head with stereotypical features long prominent in racist caricatures, including wooly hair and protruding lips. The campaigners argue that the logo is an outdated and offensive caricature that should be replaced. They started a campaign called “No Mohr” calling for the brewery to replace the moor’s head with a baobab tree designed by the artist Mara Niang.

In 2012 the brewery declared itself “always interested” in such dialogue but declined to adopt the suggested redesign. They argue that the logo is a tradition dating back to medieval heraldry: the design comes from the family crest of the original brewer, Josef Mohr, who owned an inn named “Zum Mohren” that was later sold to the family that founded the brewery in 1834. Further, they insist that it is an essential component of their distinctive and locally recognizable brand.

This is a common response (see, for example, debates over children’s books and blackface) that reflects an unwillingness to accept a vision of “tradition” with anti-black racism written into it. “No Mohr” campaigners continue to use the issue to draw attention to the wider history of racist depictions in Austrian history.

Jeff Bowersox


Source: Mohrenbrauerei Dornbirn via Wikimedia Commons and simon INOU/Mara Niang. ©Mara Niang.

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