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Chinese New Year 2018: TV celebration gala sparks outrage as 'racist' performance includes blackface sketch

Skit intended to promote relations between Africa and China backfires

Alina Polianskaya
Friday 16 February 2018 11:48 GMT
Chinese New Year 2018: TV celebration gala sparks outrage as 'racist' performance includes blackface sketch

A comic performance on China’s biggest New Year variety show has caused widespread outrage after a Chinese actor appeared in blackface make-up, leading to accusations of racism.

Aired on Chinese television network CCTV, the sketch was part of the Spring Festival Gala which is said to be the world’s most watched television programme with up to 800 million viewers.

The performance was intended to shine a positive light on the relationship between Africa and China – but many have called it inappropriate and “embarrassing”.

It featured an Asian woman in a tribal costume with large fake buttocks and blackface make-up carrying a fruit plate on her head, and followed by an actor dressed as a monkey.

One Twitter user said the performance “ruined my Chinese New Year”, adding: “I feel ashamed for my country thinking that this is okay.”

Another said: “After four hours, China’s New Year Gala has finally found its embarrassing racist groove.”

In the controversial skit, the actress in blackface is playing the role of a mother to another woman, who is played by a younger black actress.

The four hour gala also featured dancers dressed in tribal costumes and others representing zebras and gazelles.

It is not the first time Chinese TV has faced accusations of racism.

An advert for a laundry detergent which aired in 2016 sparked widespread outcry. It featured a black man with paint stains on his face being put into a washing machine and emerging as a light-skinned Asian man.

Online chat show The Spark was accused last year of mocking Indians with a Chinese actor appearing in a Sikh turban and fake beard, and adopting an Indian accent.

While the use of non-black actors using make-up to appear dark skinned is widely criticised in Europe and the US, in China there is less awareness of the offensive connotations of the practice.

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