Egyptian actress sparks social media outrage with blackface appearance

Egyptian actress sparks social media outrage with blackface appearance
Comedian Shaimaa Seif appeared on a satirical TV show broadcast by the Saudi-owned MBC network in blackface, behaving in a manner seen as derogatory to Sudanese women.
3 min read
12 May, 2019
Actress Shaimaa Seif has caused outrage in the Sudanese community (Twitter)

An Egyptian actress is facing a backlash after appearing on a TV prank show in blackface, in a demeaning imitation of a Sudanese woman.

In an episode of the satirical "Shaklabaz" program on the Saudi-owned MBC network last week, presenter Shaimaa Seif tried to annoy people on a minibus by raising her voice, uttering unintelligible words supposedly representative of a Sudanese accent and then asking for a kiss before revealing her true identity.

Many Sudanese viewers expressed outrage on social media, calling the performance insulting and racist. Others called for boycotting the TV station and the production company or an end to broadcast of the show, with the hashtag "boycott MBC Masr (Egypt)" in Arabic.

One Twitter user, Sahar Elkogali tweeted, “the episode of Shaklabaz about Sudanese people was funny but wasn’t comedy. It was funny because it took Egyptian media down to the lowest level. I asked myself, was it intentional to denigrate the Kandakas of Sudan during the days of the revolution [against former President Omar al-Bashir] or just one of the recurring episodes of stupidity in Egyptian media?”

The term Kandaka is a title given to queens of ancient Nubia, used in recent days to honour women who took part in the protests which ousted longtime Sudanese leader Omar al-Bashir.

Another Twitter user, Aden, said that Seif had tried to deform the image of Sudanese women and attribute mannerisms to them which they didn’t have, adding that all forms of racism and “satire on the basis of ethnicity and colour” should be fought against.

Seif issued an apology on Twitter which some social media users saw as adding insult to injury.

“I’ve recently read a great deal of comments which were all humiliation, swearing, and insults… I am a comedian and my role was a comic one and I wished you’d taken the matter in a light-hearted way because I definitely didn’t want to annoy you… I am sorry if the matter reached you in a bad way and I swear to God that I didn’t mean it.”

Ahmed Ramadan, an official from the Egyptian Journalists’ Syndicate, filed a complaint against Seif with the Egyptian National Media Authority, which manages Egyptian state media, saying that her apology didn’t go far enough.

The MBC network tried to distance itself from the matter, saying that it had purchased the Shaklabaz series for broadcast but hadn’t taken part in its production.

Egypt has a large community of Sudanese refugees and migrants who have long complained of discrimination and bigotry.

Follow us on Twitter: @The_NewArab