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Belgium: Ath festival featuring blackface 'savage' sparks racism furore

1 25.08.2019 Инфо

M/S Le Sauvage festival taking place in Ath
M/S The 'Sauvage'
M/S 'Sauvage' inciting crowd
M/S 'Sauvage' with Ath Major Bruno Lefebvre
SOT, Bruno Lefebvre, Mayor of Ath (French): "In order to ease the controversy, people just need to live the experience. And you will see that people are thrilled to be here, and that the Savage is a star among locals and that there is absolutely nothing racist behind all this."
M/S 'Sauvage' parade
M/S 'Sauvage' painting kids pace black
SOT, Festival goer (French): "It's a whole story, a family story, memories. This is a way of telling history. There is nothing negative here. The Savage tells a story and amuses local people without bad intentions."
M/S People dancing at parade
M/S 'Sauvage' with Belgian flag
M/S 'Sauvage' parade
M/S Marching band
SOT, Festival goer (French): "I think there is nothing racist about this. This is completely natural. There is a cultural background and an exceptional story to this. So I believe that he [the Savage] deserves to be here, for sure."
M/S Marching band
SOT, Resident (French): "The way the black person is represented might be demeaning but maybe it is worth exploring the context in which this started. I don't know the story that well. I am not shocked by this. Slavery is over. This represents something, it might be slavery, I don't know. But it is the custom of Ath and needs to stay."
M/S 'Sauvage' festival parade
SCRIPT
Hundreds of people flocked to the western town of Ath on Sunday to witness the traditional 'Le Sauvage' performance amid claims that the tradition is racist.
The four-day-long festival features a white man, wearing blackface, a chain round his neck and a nose ring, who is known as the 'Savage.'
"You will see that people are thrilled to be here, and that the Savage is a star among locals and that there is absolutely nothing racist behind all this," said town mayor Bruno Lefebvre.
Another resident said the depiction might be 'demeaning' but that 'it is the custom of Ath and needs to stay.'
The festival is part of the Ducasse d'Ath, a traditional parade on the fourth Sunday of August every year, which is recognised by UNESCO as one of the 'Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity.'
However, a campaign has been launched by an anti-racism group, the Brussels Panthers, to have the festival removed from the list over its disputed content.