To the President of China
To Ambassadors of China in Africa
To the Director of CCTV
To the Producer of the Lunar Year Gala Event,
As Africans, we have always been bothered by how we are portrayed in the international media. It has taken us so long, to fight and correct this persistently inaccurate narrative image, which has deliberately reduced the African identity to the merely sad, ugly, dusty and poor individuals.
Thanks to the diligent work, education and exposure of many of us, we have seen a slow progress towards sharing a counter-narrative to this Dangerous African Single Story. However, a few days ago during the Four-hour Lunar New Year Gala show, we felt like we were taken back to the dark era. An era that we have fought long and hard to make it disappear into the unfortunate layers of our history.
This lavish Lunar New Year celebration was televised to millions across China on Thursday night, it understandably set off a flood of indignation with its cartoonish and satirical depiction of the African people, presenting artists in blackface and men in animal suits. The gala, televised by China’s state broadcaster, featured a well-known Chinese actress as an African woman with exaggerated buttocks, a large chest and a face painted black. To make matters worse, and deceptively more “real” to your audiences, there had to be a woman carrying a platter of fruit on her head, and a man dressed as a monkey.
On the behalf of the millions of Africans who are rising for Peace, Justice and Dignity, we are asking you to use your power and speak against this false portrayal and to share a public apology to all the people of African descent. The Chinese government should, in a spirit of reparation, implement national guidelines for their broadcasters to respect and celebrate diversity within common sense, we demand that you put funding in broadcasting more positive images of Africa and accurately educating your children about the continent.
As open-minded artists and defender of the freedom of expression, the representation of Africans was in no-way close to any creative approach. Instead, it was insulting and inducted poorly, therefore we can only think of it as demeaning and racist, yet another reminder of the fact that the historical enslavement of black people during the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade was ridiculing our mere humanity. The over-sexualization of black women especially is a common belief among many western cultures, it has been instrumental in further expanding certain racist agendas, it is, therefore, absolutely unacceptable to witness such a false depiction in 2018. African people have been systematically objectified and rendered sub-human; such acts were wretchedly endorsed by the Catholic Church, which was a major benefactor of the slave trade through its acquisition of a free building power. It took people of color centuries to claim back their humanity and dignity, we are all the sons and daughters of the human race, there shouldn’t be a single shred of doubt about that in the minds those who believe in the science of DNA and the science of love.
We understand that the fight to end racism in the deeply enrooted belief systems across the European, Asian and Arab cultures is far from over. This letter is a reminder that our work should continue and that the dialogue has to be open to all. It should also be a prudent reminder of the global and historical leaps of violent acts, which were primarily ignited by belief systems that the kinds of shows do reinforce. The economic and social relationship between China and Africa needs to be organized within common parameters of respect; neither side should belittle the other if we truly strive to avoid repeating the history of repressiveness that we, as Africans, are still recovering from.
China has turned around its people and its economy in less than 2 generations; we do look up to your people. As we have entered in a vertiginously changing world, Africans Rising are building the Africa we want for peace justice and dignity and we would like to participate in shaping the story of Africa’s relationship with China.