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.
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.
‘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.