Cape Town-based artist accused of 'blackface'

11 August 2020 - 07:32 By Unathi Nkanjeni
A portrait of a light-skinned black woman painted as a dark-skinned woman has been met with mixed reactions.
A portrait of a light-skinned black woman painted as a dark-skinned woman has been met with mixed reactions.
Image: Imraan Christian/Instagram

A portrait of a light-skinned black woman painted as a dark-skinned woman has been met with mixed reactions.

The portrait by Cape Town-based artist Imraan Christian has been accused of “blackface” and many argued that the artist should have hired a dark-skinned model.

Taking to Instagram, Christian shared a picture of model Ponahalo Mojapelo in a metallic headpiece by Nutcase Study with the caption “Crowns”. 

“Our first series 'Crowns' explores the relationship our great indigenous ancestors had with the cosmos and the way it was shared with future generation through art and spoken word,” Christian wrote.

In response the criticism, Christian said the intention with the portrait was to “pay homage to a shared ancient ancestor and their   to the cosmos”.

“We’re fully aware of the serious conversation that needs to be had regarding colourist and ‘blackface’. We do not take these matters lightly and our work continues to showcase black and brown poplin SA because we are of the same experience and background."

On Twitter, many pointed out that the issues with Christian's portrait was that he took a light-skinned model and painted her dark-skinned instead of using a model who is naturally dark in complexion.

Criticism of the portrait comes at the height of colourism discussions after Beyoncé's Black Is King film.

Actress and TV presenter Pearl Thusi was also dragged after posting a picture of herself in a bikini with the caption, “Brown Skin Girl”. 

For many, the song is a no-brainer that it celebrates black women — dark-skinned women in particular. Even Beyoncé was deliberate in her intention by mentioning Lupita Nyong'o, Naomi Campbell, and Kelly Rowland in the lyrics of the song.

Here is a snapshot of what tweeps had to say about the “blackface” portrait: