‘Blacking up’ for Bonfire is not racist, say angry readers

Borough Bonfire Society's Zulu traditions have been defended. Photograph by Peter Cripps
Borough Bonfire Society's Zulu traditions have been defended. Photograph by Peter Cripps

There has been a furious local reaction to accusations that ‘blacking up’ on Bonfire Night in Lewes is racist.

Scores of readers posted on the Sussex Express Facebook page following our story last week, the vast majority defending Borough Bonfire Society’s Zulu warrior tradition.

It came in response to an online petition launched on the Bonfire Against Racisim website condemning white people ‘blacking up’.

The site described it as a ‘racist practice’.

Lisa Halls posted: “This article makes me incredibly sad.

“There are some very narrow minded people out there who should take a long hard look at themselves.”

Claire-bear Heaver said the Borough Zulus had been around for as many years as she could remember and asked: “So why is it all of a sudden racist now?”

Bonnie Stevens posted: “When there are murderers, rapists, terrorists and druggies running around loose, people painting their faces is nothing.

“The do-gooders going on about PC want to concentrate on their own lives, not everyone else’s.”

Bill Purcell said: “Ye gods, idiots have no bounds in this world now. What is happening to tradition? I can remember this happening when I was a child, and that is more than 70-plus years ago. Get real you lot. Perhaps a smile from you now and again would help instead of rolling out tripe.”

Other commentators said the next target might be to outlaw the Morris dancers who ‘black up’.

Damien Brennan asked if dressing-up as Vikings was offensive to Northern European folk.

Meanwhile, the leader of a Zulu dance troupe booked to appear alongside Borough tomorrow (Saturday) said the practice was not offensive.

The Guardian reported that Thandanani Gumede, 32, from Durban, South Africa, whose West Yorkshire-based song and dance troupe Zulu Tradition will perform in Lewes, said while the issue was sensitive, the costumes and make-up were “not derogatory”.

He said: “I would be offended by people showing up in a Ku Klux Klan uniform.

So far, based on the information I have, I haven’t [seen] anything racist. “I was flattered to see there were people trying to look like me as opposed to saying it is wrong to look like me.”

n See page 6,16 and 32-40.