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ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: https://n.gbtimes.com/spring-festiv...

Spring Festival Gala criticised for ’racist’ blackface sketch

Translated Saturday 24 February 2018


The 2018 Spring Festival Gala screened by state-run broadcaster CCTV last night is facing accusations of racism for an Africa comedy sketch that involved a Chinese actress in ‘blackface’ who was accompanied by a ‘pet monkey’.

The annual four-hour variety show is a key part of Chinese New Year celebrations and is watched by an estimated 700 million people in China, holding the record for being the world’s most watched television programme.

The controversial sketch, set in Kenya, begins with Chinese host Zheng Kai joined by locals and workers to celebrate the official opening of a China-built railway between Nairobi and Mombasa, in a nod to the Belt and Road initiative.

After a performance by African art troupe Zaouly, the sketch continues with a joke about wanting to avoid a blind date arranged by one of the mothers.

The ‘African mother’, played by Chinese actress Lou Naiming, then appears on stage with her face blacked up, a basket of fruit on her head and wearing a large buttock prosthetic. She was also joined by an actor in a monkey costume.

Chinese social media news site What’s on Weibo noted that the segment was meant to emphasise good Sino-African relations, but it seems to have backfired, adding that reactions on Sina Weibo, China’s equivalent to Twitter, mostly commented that the skit was ‘awkward’.

The controversy has echoes of a Chinese laundry detergent advertisement that went viral in May 2016. In the commercial, a black man was “whitewashed” by Qiaobi laundry detergent and turned into a fair-skinned Asian man.

Performers from around the world

While the Africa sketch dominated discussion of the 2018 CCTV Spring Festival Gala, the show did feature a wide variety of family-friendly entertainment featuring performers from around the world, reported Chinese media organisation CGTN.

Basketball star Stephon Marbury, who announced his retirement on Sunday, made an appearance on the show, as did Croatian pianist Maksim Mrvica. He performed a brand-new melody entitled “The Silk Road”, which was inspired by Russian, Indian, Chinese and central European regional music.

British and American musicians were joined by singers from Russia, France, Italy and Latvia to sing “I Love You, China” in Chinese before Chinese singer and dancer Li Guyi’s “Unforgettable Tonight” brought the show to an end.

Usually called Chunwan in Mandarin, the Spring Festival Gala has been a Chinese New Year’s Eve tradition since 1983.


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