What is Brazil’s obsession with blackface??? After two separate performances activists call for an end to disrespect of Afro-Brazilian community

capa 2
capa 2

capa 2Note from BW of Brazil: So the time has come to really ask what’s really going on here. We’ve already approached the issue of Brazilian performers and average people wearing blackface in all sorts of displays, from TV commercials and skits to Carnaval bloco groups. My question has always been how the media and these groups keeping using this racist depictions of black people and no one even questioning the fact. Well, it seems that the tide is finally turning as many in the Afro-Brazilian community are beginning to speak out against these absurd spectacles. We’ll have to wait and see what the results will bring as groups, performers and the media have up to this point felt free to continue this practice unchallenged. We have already spoken out against this grotesque practice in past posts and, similar to a group of black women calling for an end to Carnaval groups wearing this ghoulish makeup, others are making their voices heard. 

In an unbelievable two days, a theater group presented a piece in which performers wore blackface and then, Friday night, a repeatedly offensive talk show host, Danilo Gentili, presented another skit on his late night program featuring not one, not two, but three performers wearing blackface. One of the performers was his Afro-Brazilian co-host. As we pointed out previously, it appears this woman will go along with anything to keep collecting a paycheck

At this point the way this issue is dealt with and it’s outcome will ultimately show if Brazil is serious about respecting all communities and showing that “all are equal” as so many Brazilians continue to truly believe. On the good side, protests against the theater piece actually led to the cancellation of the presentation which can be seen as a victory. But as so many people continue to ignore the outrage of the black community as being overly sensitive or that they see racism in everything, the struggle is far from over as this practice has been going on for so long unchallenged. The play that was recently cancelled has been put on by the theater group since 2003 which shows that there was little or no protest over the presentation for many years. Forcing the producers of this show to debate a very sensitive issue shows that activists of the black movement continue to speak out on issues that went by without a bat of an eyelash only a decade ago. 

Below is a summary of the past few days and reactions from the community. 

Scene from the play 'A Mulher do Trem'
Scene from the play ‘A Mulher do Trem’

Theater company uses blackface and is accused of racism

By Jarid Arraes

Last Saturday (02), activists of the Movimento Negro (black movement) and feminist activists came together to call an act of protest against the theater company Os Fofos Encenam, which will present  two pieces at the Itaú Cultural space starting the 12th of May. The motive of the repudiation is the use of “blackface”, a painting that mimics black people in a caricatured and debauched way.

Hundreds of people expressed outrage on social networks
Hundreds of people expressed outrage on social networks

Translation of above comments

“Waiting on the little excuse that the theater company will use to try to legitimize the racism in the piece.”

“I will be first in line with a sack of rotten tomatoes”

“Racists. Nazis. Cowards. I’m closing my account with Itaú.”

“Blackface? Let’s evolve. Making jokes about my people, my race, ah, not this! It would be redundant if I requested that they research the meaning, but I am certain that you (all) know. What makes this even more serious…(It’s) 2015 and whites still want to show off blackface, only upgraded.”

Scene from the play 'A Mulher do Trem'
Scene from the play ‘A Mulher do Trem’

In a statement published on the event page, the theater company said: “The black mask was forged by all circuses and all of them have the same characteristics,” in an attempt to justify their use and fend off accusations of racism. While it is true that blackface is something ancient and widely used, this argument does not negate the racism inherent in the practice; on the contrary, it proves that racism is rooted in our society.

Os Fofos Encenam are not the only ones recently criticized for making use of blackface. There are many people who still use make use of caricature of the black women as a form of a joke. And there are well-known examples such as the Zorra Total program, of Globo TV, who had long put on a skit table where a man would dress as a black woman, painting his skin, wearing cabelo crespo (kinky/curly hair) and intensifying the debauchery with rotten teeth, “incorrect” speech and clothes and “the poor”.

All this shows that Brazil remains extremely racist. Racism may even be a crime in theory, but in practice the situation is far from the ideal; even in the face of complaints and protests, no one is punished for mocking explicitly the black physical characteristics and representing black people as stupid, dirty, crazy, among other features that draw a line between negritude (blackness) and branquitude (whiteness).

It’s necessary to discuss the practice of blackface and redeem its historical origin, so that people understand that this practice has always been grounded in racism. In addition, we must lose fear of expressing discomfort and express rejection we feel when we see black people being treated as objects of scorn. Whoever uses blackface and whoever has fun with it will try to resist, exempting themselves from responsibility and even threaten those who protested against this practice; but only through political struggle, protest and discussions of the subject will it abided by society.

Play in São Paulo is canceled to make way for debate on the use of ‘blackface’

Staged since 2003, A Mulher do Trem, by the group Os Fofos Encenam, presents a black character that is a maid

By Alessandro Giannini

A wave of protests on social networks against the use of “blackface” in the play A Mulher do Trem put on by the Os Fofos Encenam company and Itaú Cultural cancelled the presentation on the 12th, in São Paulo. The feature, which dates back to the early nineteenth century in the United States, consists of painting white actors black to play black characters – a maid in this case. The group was accused of racism.

“Instead of the piece, which has been presented since 2003 and has received several awards including a Shell, Itaú Cultural and the group Os Fofos Encenam will promote a debate around the issue raised by the comments on social networks,” says a statement jointly issued on Monday (4) by the institute and the company. “The idea of ​​this action is that all reflect on the issue and the challenges of artistic production today. The Institute, however, continues supporting the social transformation that can only occur collaboratively and collectively.”

A French comedy written in the nineteenth century, A Mulher do Trem was first put on in Brazil in 1920, in the Circo Colombo (Colombo Circus), held by the grandfather of the actor Fernando Neves, who handled the direction of the assembly. Written by Maurice Hennequin and George Mitchell, it’s set in the living room of a house in middle class Rio. On the wedding day, the groom, older than the bride, advises his father-in-law to be more energetic in his marriage, because he considers his mother-in-law a dictator. He also tells of his bachelor adventures, emphasizing the affair he had with a mysterious woman in a train that was en route from Rio to São Paulo. The mother-in-law, hiding, who hears everything and plans revenge.

The first demonstrations against the presentation of the play had been identified on Saturday (2), according to Eduardo Saron, director of Itaú Cultural. The next day, an initial meeting with the company resulted in the suspension of the show.

“The idea of ​​the debate, which will have representatives of Itaú, Os Fofos, people of the Movimento Negro (black movement) linked to the theater and people who mobilized protest on social networks, is to practice empathy,” said Saron. “We have a list of names and we’ll see who participates. The idea of this meeting, is that the play happens. And Os Fofos had an idea of how to present it, of what way to do it, from this experience.”

Twitter photoNote from BW of Brazil: The outcome above is good news and can be a sign of the progress that has been made on the racial front, at least in comparison to a decade ago. Another situation altogether concerns the late night talk show Danilo Gentili, of the program The Noite, meaning the night. The ‘comedian’ has for years shown utter disrespect toward the black community with his skits, jokes and demeaning manner of dealing with people who reject his of crude brand of humor.

Recently, after making fun of the weight of one his Twitter followers and even being told by others to lighten up, he continued with his insensitive remarks. The woman threatened to sue him. The host would later post a photo making light of the situation. The caption read “Aqui de boas esperando os processos”, meaning, ‘doing good here waiting on the lawsuits’ as he sipped campaign on a boat. The host took a similar attitude when a black man confronted him about his racist jokes. Accused of racism, a judge saw no racism in his response and the show went on. 

On Friday night on his program, Gentili once again showed that he has little concern about how people will react to his type of humor when he presented three performers singing a ridiculous song all painted in black face. Protests against the skit started almost immediately as several people called for the boycott of the show and its sponsors. This will definitely be an uphill battle as Gentili continues to show an arrogant, untouchable attitude toward protests. But, as in the theater situation, the time has come to speak out! Below are some of the comments about the recent skit. 

Skit from 'The Noite'
Skit from ‘The Noite’

Carlos: Whoever finances racism is against democracy

TV is a public concession! Blackface never again! This Danilo Gentili and SBT are going against History! Enough with remaining quiet – Let’s boycott this program, sponsors and the SBT network until they remove this “humorist” from air! Since they only understand the power of money! Who’s with me? I just denounced the page and the “humorist” Danilo Gentili on the Humaniza Redes site. You do the same!

Claudia – By suggestion of a friend, through a post, I am adhering to the campaign of the boycott of the program, sponsors and the network, of the RACIST DANILO GENTILI and I suggest each one that decides to do the same, send an e-mail or call the SAC (Serviço de Atendimento ao Consumidor/customer service) of these companies, mainly the sponsors and network informing of the reason for the boycott. Together we are strong!!! PUTTING OUT: Information of the sponsor and merchant of the program of this racist, let’s go to battle and not stop denouncing to CONAR. Sponsor: FIAT; Merchan: Claro Internet Turbinada; BIS Zueira; Trident Fresh; Nescafé Dolce Gusto – now it’s on us.

Danilo Gentili on the late night talk show 'The Noite'
Danilo Gentili on the late night talk show ‘The Noite’

Shaira – Let’s give an enough in the disrespect of the black population on Brazilian TV! Exercise your citizenship, go to the Humana Rede site of the federal government and make your denouncement against Danilo Gentili and the program The Night of SBT (TV). Let’s boycott this program and advertisers so that they respect us, we are the majority, blackface and racism is not funny!

Click on the link to denounce

Copy the data to go to Gentili’s page and say why you’re denouncing it:

Daniela: I refuse to speak about this camarada because he only remains in the media exactly for the IBOPE (ratings) that he gets at our cost. He is trash, he is program isn’t funny and he is no humorist. But I couldn’t control myself and I need to say that we speak badly of Globo (I am the first), we want to boycott Globo, that Projac (1) comes down etc, but we forget these other networks. For me a network that hires this guy and accepts this type of program that he makes is as racist as he is and thus, Mr. Senor Abravanel, (better known as) Silvio Santos and all the direction of SBT, if you continue to keep this program on the air with this type of attraction. I would like to say that you are racists and you pay a disservice to the Afro-Brazilian population.

Comments in original Portuguese
Comments in original Portuguese

Source: Portal Revista Fórum, O Globo, RAC


1. Projac is a large production studio of Brazil’s most popular TV station, Rede Globo. It’s located in the Jacarepaguá neighborhood of Rio de Janeiro.

About Marques Travae 3747 Articles
Marques Travae. For more on the creator and editor of BLACK WOMEN OF BRAZIL, see the interview here.


  1. This is one of the times where being civilized adds nothing. People should do and destroy the places where such absurd happens. Nice debate with supportive white women will not change the status quo.

  2. When my friends make fun of me cause I am fat, I do not get offended and do not take it as racism, because I accept the fact that I am fat. I am in balance with my self and can understand sarcasm. (Like in a stand up comedy). When black people do not accept the fact that they are black they do not understand any play or act, they are trying to make the actor guilty for the fact that they are black. (it has a name in terms of psychology, do not remember) Dont start to accuse me of being racist…I adore black people, I also had a relationship with one form USA and my niece is married to one, here in far Greece. But as we greeks make fun of the albanians, brasilians with portugueses, brunettes with blonds etc, we have to stop and think…will we get rid of all those jokes? Is “racism” a trap to make people fight each other? I beleive that bigger is the problem of the social classes than that of the color. The problem of the color is “artificial”, it suits the governments…let’s correct society first and then we sensor the theaters.

  3. Again you are the one obssessed and wanting to push foreign values to Brazil.
    Black face is not a thing in Brazil.
    In Brazil Black face has the opposite effect, is used as a homage to Black people and even Black people does Blackface.
    is totally Americentrism imposing American values to Brazilians

    • Foreign values? Really? So all of the Brazilians who also reject blackface should also be accused of having foreign values too, right? This is not an issue I will debate. It is for this very reason that I post material by Brazilians themselves. Not everyone agrees with your opinion on this issue….

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