- Title: Belgian city denies racism over blackface character in festival
- Date: 25th August 2019
- Summary: ATH, BELGIUM (AUGUST 25, 2019) (REUTERS) ***WARNING: CONTAINS FLASH PHOTOGRAPHY*** WHITE MAN COVERED IN BLACK PAINT AND WEARING A FEATHER CROWN KNOWN AS "THE SAVAGE" BEING LED BY CHAINS THROUGH THE BELGIAN CITY OF ATH DURING THE 'DUCASSE D'ATH' FOLK FESTIVAL LOCAL PEOPLE AND PHOTOGRAPHERS FILMING "THE SAVAGE" "THE SAVAGE" SURROUNDED BY LOCAL PEOPLE WHILE SCARING A LITTLE BOY AND THEN WALKING AWAY LITTLE BOY HIDING BEHIND FATHER WHILE BEING SCARED BY "THE SAVAGE" BRUSSELS, BELGIUM (AUGUST 23, 2019) (REUTERS) SPOKESMAN FOR ANTI-RACISM GROUP 'BRUSSELS PANTHERS', MOUHAD REGHIF, WEARING T-SHIRT, READING (French): "Brussels Panthers' (SOUNDBITE) (French) SPOKESMAN FOR ANTI-RACISM GROUP 'BRUSSELS PANTHERS', MOUHAD REGHIF, SAYING: "This character has a wild attitude and behaviour. He's shouting at people. He scares children and gives a degrading image of black people. It's even more serious when it comes to children. I have a black friend living in Ath. In the past, she met a child who started crying because she reminded him of 'the savage' or a child who said 'can I have a savage kiss'. What we ask Ath people is to understand that even if they have no racist intention - and we do believe them - this character helps retaining negrophobia and thus take part in a form of structural discrimination experienced by Afro-descendant and black people. " ATH, BELGIUM (AUGUST 25, 2019) (REUTERS) "THE SAVAGE" KISSING A LITTLE BOY AND HIS DAD, "THE SAVAGE" TRYING TO SCARE A BOY "THE SAVAGE" CLIMBING ONTO A FLOAT AND BEING CHEERED UP BY THE CROWD WOMAN FILMING WITH HER PHONE "THE SAVAGE" ON THE FLOAT FLOAT PASSING ATH STREETS CROWD APPLAUDING ATH, BELGIUM (AUGUST 23, 2019) (REUTERS) ATH MAYOR BRUNO LEFEBVRE STANDING BY POSTER FOR 'DUCASSE D'ATH' FOLK FESTIVAL LEFEBVRE SPEAKING TO REPORTER (SOUNDBITE) (French) ATH MAYOR, BRUNO LEFEBVRE, SAYING: "It's mostly people from outside (the town) who talk about 'racism', 'negrophobia.' At Ath, we never considered 'The Savage' to be a racist figure. It is rather a character that the inhabitants of Ath adulate, one character among the main ones of our Ducasse (festival). After all, when one gets a kiss from 'The Savage,' we get lucky all the year ahead. This is the nice side of face painting, since the black paint must be passed on to the people of Ath throughout the procession. Therefore we are really in a dynamic that has nothing to do with racism or negrophobia. We are in a candid logic,' where 'The Savage' plays an important role. " ATH, BELGIUM (AUGUST 25, 2019) (REUTERS) "THE SAVAGE" WALKING IN THE STREET AND BEING APPLAUDED BY THE CROWD "THE SAVAGE" GIVING HIS CHAINS TO THE ATH MAYOR (SOUNDBITE) (French) SPECTATOR, MYRIAM CARLIER, SAYING: "I think it's our folklore, our tradition and I'm in favour of "The Savage". That's all what I'll tell you today. We will stay very calm today and we hope that everything will take place calmly." "THE SAVAGE" KISSING A LITTLE BOY CROWD CHEERING "THE SAVAGE" SCREAMING FROM THE FLOAT (SOUNDBITE) (French) SPECTATOR, DOMINIQUE HENDRICKX, SAYING: "It's part of the parade, it's a total part of the parade. The polemic is raised by people who are usually invisible. If it is not in Ath, it will be another part of the folklore that will be pointed out. For me, there is no polemic to raise. Myself, I was born in Zaire, formerly Belgian Congo. My neighbours are African and I have no problem with that. And I think no inhabitant of Ath has any problem with that." "THE SAVAGE" HITTING HIS STICK, YELLING AND RAISING THE HAND OF A BOY WEARING A T-SHIRT READING (French): "I am the savage" CROWD CHEERING / "THE SAVAGE" ON HIS FLOAT "THE SAVAGE" DRINKING BEER
- Embargoed: 8th September 2019 18:08
- Keywords: Belgium blackface racism Brussels Panthers Ducasse d'Ath' folk festival Ath
- Location: ATH, BELGIUM
- City: ATH, BELGIUM
- Country: Belgium
- Topics: Society/Social Issues
- Reuters ID: LVA001ATPUZIF
- Aspect Ratio: 16:9
- Story Text: "The Savage", a white performer in a blackface disguise, paraded on Sunday (August 25) at the 'Ducasse d'Ath' folk festival in Belgium, despite critics saying the cultural event spreads racism and fear of black people.
The anti-racism group Brussels Panthers early in August launched a petition against the emblematic figure of the annual event, who walked through the Belgian city of Ath with chains around his wrists, screaming and scaring children.
Brussels Panthers spokesman Mouhad Reghif told Reuters that the character depicted a degrading image of black people and perpetuated discrimination experienced by African descendants and black people.
But Ath mayor, Bruno Lefebvre, denies the use of blackface and the character named "The Savage" has racist connotations, defending its presence at the festival as something the inhabitants of Ath "adulate". Lefebvre said calls of racism directed at Ath were made by people living outside of the city.
During the parade, "the Savage" gave his chains to the mayor, to reportedly quell debate about the issue.
(Production: Farah Salhi)
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