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'Blackface' at Exxon I-Day event causes storm

The 'blackface' performer at the Exxon Independence Day event. 'Blackface' is considered offensive by many people and this incident has drawn great criticism

| ABC Pacific Mornings | Extract

You can link here to Anthony Stewart’s full story
And here’s an explainer on why ‘blackface’ is offensive

MELBOURNE - A performance at the Port Moresby headquarters of oil giant Exxon Mobil has sparked controversy in Papua New Guinea, with some locals saying the show disrespected their culture.

The video posted on Twitter shows a man painted brown and dressed in the traditional clothing of PNG's Tolai people while dancing around in celebration ahead of Monday's 44th independence day.

The man performs a version of a traditional dance and the crowd can be heard laughing and cheering.

It is understood the performance was part of an "adopt an expat" event that pairs PNG and international staff, in a bid to celebrate local culture.

But members of the local Tolai community told the ABC that they felt the performance "didn't display appropriate respect for our culture".

"For a foreigner to just dress up, walk up, and just dance somehow, without understanding the real meaning [of the ritual] — it's offensive," Tolai woman Janet Sios said.

Ms Sios is the founder of PNG Fashion Week and has spent years working to get better recognition of traditional cultures.

She said her concern centres on the fact that the performance does not recognise the sacred nature of the dance and costume.

The Tolai woman told the ABC that she was disappointed Exxon Mobil allowed the event to happen, but she does not hold it against the person dancing in the video.



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Philip Fitzpatrick

I distinctly recall a dance group at the Goroka Show in 1969 arriving dressed as a kiap with his policemen and a bunch of villagers enacting a charade of a census patrol. I've got a faded photograph to prove it.

I found it quite amusing and original but the reaction from the Europeans at the show was quite different. Protestations were made to the District Commissioner to remove the dancers.

Daniel Kumbon

Some people do not seem to see the lighter side of life.

We seem to be sitting only on our backsides, chew buai, sell loose cigarettes, rent property or sell precious land to Asians and complain.

Why don't we compete?

Why don't we sit behind the till everyday like the Asians do and make money?

As for the person dancing here. Congratulations.

You are in a free country.

When the next Independence Day celebrations come around, try and adorn yourself in a different cultural outfit from another province.

PNG has over 800 different cultural groups so it won't be hard.

Try and perform the Tapioka dance if you wish. The people of Milne Bay won't mind.

But if they don't allow you, ask any Engan to dress you up.

Culture is meant to be shared.

If people have an issue with Exxon Mobil - speak to them direct.

Baka Bina

That was stupidity at its best. With all the hullabaloo going on in America over black/white relations, he was just a bit colour tone deaf.

We want expatriates to participate and take pleasure in our multitude of cultures, dress and singsings.

In this case, he did not need to paint his face black to represent a black man. He'd be a cool dude if he was just himself in traditional Tolai regalia.

A copious amount of kambang and baby powder on his white skin does hide the red of a white embarrassment and a bit of kavavarr spewing olsem volkanu pairap would have brought on the opposite effect.

Bernard Corden

The only culture any of the socially autistic corporate US brigands understand is profit with the accumulation of wealth as the ultimate test of human achievement.

This underpins the Friedman doctrine and one must ask how can a corporation be ethical if its only social responsibility is to make a profit?

Much of the ideology emanated from the Chicago School of Economics, in a city where another notorious gangster plied his trade during the great depression. He was eventually jailed for tax evasion.

"History repeats itself, first as tragedy then as farce" - Karl Marx

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