Note from BW of Brazil: I’ve said this before. After so many outrageous incidents that are either blatantly racist or just very disrespectful to black people or our history, I don’t believe that these events are simply white people making bad decisions, not thinking or not understanding the significance of their actions. I’m not saying that in every situation people know exactly what they’re doing, but more times than one would believe, I think these events are sometimes publicity stunts or people knowingly making a mockery of a still existing racial hierarchy that continues to remind black people globally of the position society continues to place them. I mean, do you really think that Gucci didn’t know that that black sweater with the red lip outline covering the mouth was a throwback to the controversial wearing of blackface? Of course they did. But the story attracted more publicity, the company issues the standard weak-ass apology, promises to pull the item from stores and that was it.
In the same manner, given how Brazil’s near four centuries of slavery is still reflected in the country’s race relations and in the thoughts, actions and jokes of bad tastes by companies and every citizens, why would I think that Vogue Brasil’s director’s birthday party was just another, “Oops, sorry I didn’t know” moment? The casual observer who knows that in the state of Bahia, black women are often seen wearing the traditional “baiana” white dress and accessories to take photos with incoming tourists, so why is this a big deal? The point is that, is such a setting, if it were a black man or women seated in the chair surrounded by other blacks, that image is one thing. But in a photo in which a white woman is flanked by two black women dressed in attire associated with 18th and 19th century colonial Brazil, the message is completely different.
Take the black and white photo above for example. The photo was taken somewhere in Brazil in 1860 and shows two freed men posing with a white woman they were carrying. The clothes were loaned to them just for the photo but also note that the men aren’t wearing shoes, which signified their status. In slave-holding Brazil, slaves were often seen barefoot in the streets. While it is true that official slavery ended in Brazil in 1888, its social relations and position of superior and inferior according to race continues to influence interactions today. And we continue to see the numerous ways that Brazilians still seem to hold a sort of nostalgic feeling toward human bondage as we’ve seen in numerous examples such as the slavery-themed motel, the plantation tourist attraction or the blackface slave college practical joke, among many other incidents.
But I’m sure the director of Vogue Brasil didn’t know anything about that, right? The thought that she could come across looking like a “sinhá” (slave master’s wife) probably never crossed her mind I’m sure…Well, that’s what they all say anyway…
Vogue Brasil director feasts with black women dressed as slaves
The luxurious anniversary party of Donata Meirelles, in Salvador, had a slave-like theme and even a “sinhá throne” for the guests to take pictures next to the “mucamas” (house slaves); webusers accuse socialite of racism
Courtesy of Revista Fórum with additional info from Catraca Livre
A party that brought together artists and millionaires on Friday night (8) in Salvador has been accused of racism by web users. This is the 50th birthday party of socialite Donata Meirelles, director of Vogue Brasil magazine, held at the Palácio da Aclamação.
From the photos, the party seemed to have as its theme slave-holding Colonial Brazil. Black women dressed as mucamas (house slaves), dressed in white clothes and turbans, positioned around a large chair, as if it were of mill colonels. A scene that for many internet users referred to slavery. The women greeted guests at reception, with these guests posting photos on their social networks with the hashtag #doshow50. The women dressed as slaves were left with abanadores (hand fans) beside “thrones of sinhá” so that the guests could make the photographic record.
The party received many criticisms, including from the writer and activist Djamila Ribeiro. “This party treated black people in a very disrespectful way, referring to a colonial heritage. What bothers me in all this is connivance. The people there were acting as if nothing had happened,” she said.
She added: “Besides the owner of the party, I think that the people who were there should also be held accountable, especially those who say they are anti-racist. It’s past the hour from branquitude (whiteness) to think and rethink. It is impossible to compose with the narcissistic covenant of branquitude. It’s very violent. What happened was not merely a party. It is the reinforcement of a colonial structure.”
“A branquitude (whiteness) loves experiencing the rancidness of slavery, because after all they wish it had not ended, but did it end? We live in such modern slavery, where our pains see constumes, decoration of parties to benefit the bad taste of sinhás and sinhores” (slave master and slave master’s mistress) wrote in a posting in the social networks, black singer Joyce Fernandes, known as Preta Rara.
And still more…
“A party full of white people with a Brazilian colonial theme, blacks being ornaments for photos of white people. They may think it’s mimimi (whining) but we are still far from dealing with racism and knowing how to respect differences # Doshow50 to racism of the 21st century” pic.twitter.com/3pIoQIdZhv
– Panda do Cerrado (@pandadocerrado) February 9, 2019
“Donata Meirelles, director of I don’t what Vogue Brasil – magazine champion of appropriation and stage of constant racism, had the 50-year-party with the theme Colonial Brazil, escravocrata (slave-holding), with black women dressed as maids.”
– Larissa (@prosaimpurpura) February 9, 2019
“Donata Meirelles, director of Vogue Brasil had the 50-year-old party with the theme Colonial Brazil, escravocrata (slave-holding), with black women dressed as maids. These people are nasty, aren’t they?” pic.twitter.com/UP9tbNuQVw
– Gleice Queiroz (@GleiceQueirozz) February 9, 2019
“Brasil Colônia Escravocrata (Colonial slave-holding Brazil). Theme of the director’s birthday party (I think that’s the position) of Vogue Brasil in Salvador. There is no more modesty. There is no more respect. Empathy? Jesus,you’ve gone too far. Whiteness has even missed the limit and unmasked its racism good.” pic.twitter.com/X1L2hd5UAh
– Draculina na Folia 🎉 (@TatiTatinka) February 9, 2019
“According to Preta, the decoration of the party was “Slaveholding Colonial Brazil”, with the right to black women dressed as mucamas, brining an atmosphere to the party and welcoming the guests. That’s right: black women dressed as mucamas and with a right to SINHÁ’s THRONE.” pic.twitter.com/BWb1pZBbTT
– Bruno Vieira (@svieirabruno) February 9, 2019
“fuck, who in good conscience has the courage to have a birthday party with the theme of colonial brazil? how disgusting.”
– Laro (@ martins69_) February 9, 2019
After the negative repercussion, Donata Meirelles posted on her social networks on Saturday (9), apologizing for the case of having caused a “different impression”.
In the apology, however, the director of Vogue Brasil downplayed it and tried to justify it, stating that women who were interpreted as slaves wore, in fact, “Bahian costumes.”
“Since it was Friday and the party was in Bahia, many guests and the receptive were in white, as tradition says. But it’s also worth clarifying: in the photos published, the chair was not a Sinhá chair, but a candomblé chair, and the clothes were not that of a mucama, but Bahian party costumes,” she wrote.
Still attempting to justify the party, Meirelles continued:
“Still, if we caused a different impression of that, I apologize. I respect Bahia, its culture and its traditions, as well as the Baianas, which are Intangible Heritage of this land that I also consider mine and who receive with so much affection the visitors at the airport, in the streets and at the parties. But, as Juscelino said, with error there is no compromise and, as the samba says, forgiveness was made to ask.”