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'Blackface' mannequin at Dis-Chem causes outrage

Business Insider SA
 Feb 21, 2020, 03:21 PM
The Dischem store at Killarney Mall.

A marketing campaign celebrating African beauty went badly wrong for a Dis-Chem store in Johannesburg, as the decision to daub a white mannequin's face with dark make-up triggered an outcry.

The mannequin was dressed in an African-style dress alongside a small hut, wooden spoons and other items.

By Friday afternoon, the mannequin was replaced with a new display:

Photo: Phillip de Wet

The hut was moved to another part of the store:

Other figures remained on the shop floor:

Photo: Phillip de Wet

Including one that bore a striking resemblance to the offending mannequin:

Photo: Phillip de Wet

The installation did not get a warm reception on social media:

According to a report on Sowetan Live, the manager of the store said the display was part of an “African beauty campaign”, which came as a directive from head office. When approached by Business Insider SA, the manager referred queries to head office.

A spokesperson from Dis-Chem's head office said that the store was not aware of the installation. 

Dis-Chem stores, including the one in Killarney mall, are currently decorated with African-themed marketing material as part of its "Beauty Fair" promotion.

Photo: Phillip de Wet
Photo: Phillip de Wet

Blackface outcry

Fashion brands have recently come under fire for releasing racially insensitive products, many of them resembling blackface, a racist practice that dates back to the 1800s.

Gucci apologised last year  for a R12,000 high-neck black wool sweater that featured bright red lips when pulled over the face, and the "balaclava sweater" had been removed from all stores and online.

In December 2018, Prada pulled a monkey bag charm after sharp social media backlash against the figure, which many pointed out resembled blackface.

In response, director Spike Lee launched a personal boycott of Gucci and Prada, demanding that the brands hire black designers.

Read:  Why these Gucci clothes are racist

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