South African TV star's coming-of-age ceremony censored by Instagram

'It's not nudity, it's culture'

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The Independent Online

A South African TV star has clashed with the image sharing platform Instagram over its all-encompassing nudity policy, after the website censored photos from her Zulu coming-of-age ceremony.

Actress and presenter Ntando Duma celebrated her traditional Umemulo over the weekend in her home town of Orange Farm, and proudly shared images of the festival with her more than 440,000 followers.

In the Zulu tradition, a woman celebrates her Umemulo with her family’s community when she reaches the age of 21. It has historically been a way of showing a woman is available for marriage and available only to those who are still virgins, though some are accepting a shift in culture.

Young men and women involved in the ceremony wear traditional dress - but with most going almost completely topless, the vast majority of Duma’s photographs fell foul of Instagram’s rules.

Frustrated by having all her pictures removed, Duma eventually self-censored - photoshopping stars over one image, and covering up for others.


uMama ney'ngane zakhe🔑❤️ #uMemuloKaNtando

A photo posted by Ms Ntando Fleekiswa Duma (@dumantando) on

At her Umemulo, a woman is handed down a ceremonial spear, and (top image) covered in paper money

In its community guidelines, Instagram says users must post images “that are appropriate for a diverse audience”. 

“We know that there are times when people might want to share nude images that are artistic or creative in nature, but for a variety of reasons, we don’t allow nudity on Instagram,” the rules state.

Duma nonetheless hit out at the site after her images were repeatedly censored. According to South Africa’s Times Live, in the caption to a particularly touching image with her sister which has since been removed, she expressly pleaded with followers not to report it and for it to remain online.

“This is not nudity, it's culture!” she wrote in another caption. “Ningazos'dina (Don't p*ss me off)! Report it again, ngizokuLoya (and I will bewitch you),” she said.

The ceremony was also attended by the singer Candy Tsamandebele, herself a star of Instagram with 33,000 followers.

Tsamandebele posted a censored version of one of the images with Duma and her sister Thando, saying she was “so proud”. It remains online.

She wrote in another caption: "I think the person who reported never had an opportunity to see her or his own girl child (have this ceremony because they) were sleeping around. 

“So now for them to see the girl who was well groomed and respected loving herself so much, it's killing them deeply. We love you and South Africa loves you, Ntando and Thando.”

Thando Duma appeared to have had her Instagram account suspended over the photos of the ceremony, though it has since been restored.

It is not the first time Instagram’s nudity regulations have been met with anger or resistance. 

In 2014, Scout Willis launched the #FreeTheNipple campaign on Instagram, saying that “no woman should be made to feel ashamed of her body”.

The daughter of Bruce Willis and Demi Moore was angry at the site’s decision to take down an photograph she shared of a jumper that featured an image of two topless women.

Duma rose to fame as the winner of 2014’s Craz-e Presenter Search, a talent competition to find presenters for the entertainment programme on the network.

She has since presented a number of programmes on the channel and starred in its soap opera Rhythm City.

Last month, she was named as the ambassador for the prestigious shoe brand Skechers SA, the first black South African to be handed the role.

A spokesperson for Instagram told The Independent: "It is not always easy to find the right balance between enabling people to express themselves while maintaining a comfortable experience for our global and culturally diverse community of many different ages, but we try our best."