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Chinese New Year TV gala is accused of racism for including dancers in blackface

Chinese TV gala sparks racism controversy after featuring dancers in blackface to celebrate Lunar New Year

  • A performance featuring dancers in blackface was aired in China on Thursday
  • The performers appeared on stage with darkened skin made up to look African
  • It was part of the country’s biggest annual gala to celebrate Lunar New Year
  • The programme, watched by 1.1billion people, was accused of racism by viewers 

China‘s biggest Lunar New Year TV show has been accused by viewers of racism for including performers in blackface to look African.

During a performance titled ‘African Song and Dance’, Chinese dancers appeared on stage wearing outfits that approximated African clothing and had darkened their skin with make-up.

The four-hour annual gala, one of the world’s most-watched TV programme, was aired on Thursday by state broadcaster CCTV and is said to have attracted more than 1.1 billion viewers.

China’s biggest Lunar New Year TV show aired on Thursday has been accused by viewers of racism for including Chinese performers (pictured) in blackface to look African

The gala came under fire in 2018 over a skit showing a Chinese actress ‘blacked up’ with an exaggerated false bottom and a fruit basket on her head.

It also featured actors in monkey and giraffe costumes and was meant to celebrate Sino-African relations, but had been blasted for being culturally insensitive.

The ‘African Song and Dance’ performance came at start of the Spring Festival Gala on Thursday evening as Asia welcomed the Lunar Year of the Ox.

The performance was criticised by viewers as ‘racist’ after showing Chinese dancers in African-style costumes and dark face makeup beating drums.

The performance, titled 'African Song and Dance' was criticised by viewers as 'racist' after showing Chinese dancers in African-style costumes and dark face makeup beating drums

The performance, titled ‘African Song and Dance’ was criticised by viewers as ‘racist’ after showing Chinese dancers in African-style costumes and dark face makeup beating drums

‘Blackface while performing African songs? This is 100 per cent racism,’ said one of the angered observers who took to Weibo, China’s Twitter-like social media platform.

‘The New Year Gala director team is just stupid and vicious,’ another user exclaimed. 

‘Is there any difference between Chinese people doing blackface and white people slanting their eyes to make fun of Asians?’

Organisations and advocates for Africans in China also lambasted the show.

‘While supporters of the practice allege that blackface centers on empathy & realism, it’s difficult to disassociate it from a long history of minstrelsy & fixation on problematic caricatures,’ Black China Caucus, an activist group, said on Twitter.

‘Next year, we hope organizers decide to end this practice & hire some of thousands of Black people living in many parts of China.’ 

Black Livity China, a group for people of African descent who work in or with China, called the broadcast ‘extremely disappointing.’ 

The annual show has been China’s television staple since it was first broadcast in 1983.

This year, it focused on celebrating Chinese medical workers amid the coronavirus pandemic and the country’s space programme.  

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