‘Blackface’ no more


Pakistani fashion has got its absolutely fabulous knickers in a bit of a twist. With parts of the industry going all out for the ‘blackface’ look. This is not cool. This is not hip. This is not clever. And certainly, no one is laughing.

Black is beautiful. This cultural appropriation is not. Andnor is it about one singular incident. Or even about the fashion industry alone. Pakistanis artists, too, have recently been called out on this and rightly so.

Many Pakistanis were as equally outraged as their Indian neighbours over a particular pop music video set in Mumbai and that was released last year by British band, Coldplay. The overriding charge being that the India shown was that of the White Man’s fantasy of an exotic India, where street urchins run around throwing coloured dye at will. The footage also featured Beyoncé dolled up like a fair n’ lovely version of a Bollywood siren — all long blonde hair and blue contacts. Yet when some Indian women activists denounced Queen Bey on similar charges of cultural appropriation — they were virtually silenced by an overwhelmingly majority of Afro-American activists on the grounds that being a black woman, Beyoncé couldn’t possibly be guilty of what they said. Many went on to cite the historic tradition of cultural ties between several African countries and those of South Asia. Which is all well and good. Our only contention remains that with so much of the global race narrative being US-centric — some women of colour based in the States unwittingly wield their First World privilege (in relative terms) and end up silencing women in the Global South. This has to stop. Meaning that black politics and black feminism in the US should be framed around that particular experience. To assume that it takes precedence over competing yet distinct narratives risks embracing the imperialist narrative that it rightly seeks to debunk.

That being said, this in no way justifies Pakistanis going down the ‘blackface’ route. The image of the black woman in the western, non-black context is a political one. At its heart, lies decades upon decades upon decades of humiliation, of being treated like a freak, of being degraded and owned by white feudalism and of not having ownership of her body. And if we can’t see that — having been a colonised people, no less — then we need to start checking our own privilege.Read more at:marieprom | formal dresses uk