Maajid Nawaz: There's Nothing Inherently Wrong With Painting Your Face Black

4 November 2017, 17:51 | Updated: 4 November 2017, 18:04

The LBC presenter said the Lewes zulus' black face is not inherently offensive but is because of its historical social context.

A row has erupted over the outfits of one of the groups at the infamous Lewes bonfire night event.

Members of Lewes Borough Bonfire Society typically wear black face paint and extravagant garments for the annual parade in the Sussex town.

Maajid Nawaz said the act of "blacking up" is not inherently offensive but, given the historical and social context, is in Western society.

He said that is why Thandanani Gumede, leader of dance troupe Zulu Tradition, initially accepted an invitation to perform alongside the group, but declined when he was inundated with pictures of the group's inaccurate dress.

Thandanani said: "It didn't offend me because it was clear they had taken to time to make the details of the costume correct. They had the leopard skin umqhele, the 'crown', similar to my own, beads and sympathetic body paint."

But when he saw more images he changed his mind, adding "I was really disappointed. Bones through the noses, dead monkeys, skulls, horns, huge feathered headdresses.

"They looked barbaric, like a cross between a Viking and a showgirl. It was incredibly offensive. Nothing about those outfits resembled a Zulu warrior."

Maajid attributed to the change of heart to the inaccuracy of the costumes, not the black face paint.

He said: "Nowhere in his quote has he mentioned painting your face black.

"I find it offensive, but why is it important to point out that he doesn't? Because he's the zulu not me.

"The time and place, and the context in which it comes, makes black face offensive. There's nothing inherently wrong with painting your face.

"It's wrong in a western context for certain historic reasons. It can be objected to because of the way it was used to steal representation of people of colour in media.

"It's offensive for all of those reasons, and really shouldn't be done.

"It's for those historic and contextual reasons that I find it morally objectionable."

Watch the full clip above.