Does a video show a mermaid found in Zimbabwe? No, that's not true: The video shows part of a 2015 festival performance staged by city officials and cultural organizations in Warsaw, the capital city of Poland.
The claim appeared in a post on Instagram on June 27, 2023. The post included a video of people in white hazmat suits carrying what looks to be a mermaid or merman and placing it onto a gurney. The text in the video read "Mermaid in Zimbabwe!" and the post's caption read:
Oh my. #mermaid #zimbabwe #conspiracy #disney
This is how the post looked on Instagram at the time of writing:
The video has circulated online since 2015. As reported in this explainer, which debunks the claim that the creature is real, the video was used to bring attention to activities being held during the New Varsovians Festival in 2015. "Varsovians" refers to residents or natives of Warsaw. According to the explainer, the video originally gained popularity when it was posted to YouTube on September 24, 2015. The description of the YouTube video points users to "more" about the footage. In the English words written by the user who posted the video, the description reads:
I guess I know what it is! It's a siren - one of the seven that have just come to Warsaw! More: www.nowiwarszawiacy.pl
Although the domain name of the website linked in the description is no longer in use, an archived version of the link shows that it led to a website for the New Varsovians Festival. Lead Stories used Google Translate to translate the website's Polish to English. According to that translation, the festival was a collaborative event between the city of Warsaw and various cultural institutions, including the Białołęcki Cultural Center, the Wola Museum of Warsaw and the Działdowska Community Center:
The festival consists of 3 pillars: social animations 'Warsaw from the inside', taking place from July to October 2015 in Wola and Białołęka, artistic activities (September, October 2015) and debates, discussion panels and a scientific conference (October-December 2015). Various, interdisciplinary activities taking place as part of the Festival are an attempt to face the identity of the capital, with the expectations of its inhabitants and visitors, they contain a critical reflection on the changes in contemporary Warsaw.
Among the New Varsovians Festival's "artistic activities" was a theatrical project titled "Mermaids in Warsaw." Warsaw has a special relationship with mermaid tales, and the mythical "Warsaw Mermaid," who swam along the Vistula River and was heralded as a protector of the city, is featured on the city's coat of arms and on other architecture around the area. As for the festival performance of "Mermaids in Warsaw," a list of contributors can be found on the about page of the festival website.
Jarosław Jóźwiak, deputy mayor of Warsaw at the time of the New Varsovians Festival, also participated in the act. On September 28, 2015, the city of Warsaw's official Facebook page posted a video of Jóźwiak discussing, according to Google Translate, "the object fished out of the Vistula." A YouTube version of the Jóźwiak video was posted to a page specifically created for the New Varsovians Festival. The description of the YouTube version of the video, translated from Polish to English using Google Translate, reads in part:
Sirens have been located in Warsaw, but the city authorities cannot yet inform the public about the detailed location. However, they promise that when all threats are eliminated, the facility is planned to open for those willing to see the legendary creatures live. As the organizers of the New Varsovians Festival - a joint project of the Białołęcki Cultural Centre, the Wola Museum, the Museum of Warsaw, the Capital City of Warsaw and the Działdowska Community Center - we have been asked to provide you with all information about the Mermaids on an ongoing basis.
Lead Stories reached out to a spokesperson for the city of Warsaw, representatives of Owl PR, a public relations agency involved with the New Varsovians Festival and Jóźwiak for comment on the video used to make the "Mermaid in Zimbabwe" claim. We will update this fact check with any responses.
Lead Stories has debunked other stories related to mermaids, including that there was a legitimate image taken of a baby with a fish tail and that a mermaid washed up on a beach in South Africa or Kenya.