Donata Meirelles hosted the lavish dinner party last Friday in Bahia, northeastern Brazil, and images showing the theme were quickly associated with the country’s long history of African slavery.
Online backlash was swift after “a guest posted a photograph on Instagram showing Meirelles, who is white, seated on an elaborate throne surrounded by black women in traditional white dress.”
“Critics quickly pointed out that the imagery of elaborately dressed black women welcoming guests and posing alongside them was reminiscent of Brazil’s colonial past.
“Rita Batista, a Brazilian black television presenter, re-posted the photograph alongside a similarly arranged image from 1860, also taken in Bahia, to demonstrate why Meirelles’ party was so offensive to the region’s black population.”
Explaining the historical context of the behavior, Batista quoted an excerpt from the book ‘Jóias de Crioula’ by Laura Cunha and Thomas Milz.
“The slaves of wealthy houses were adorned by their own masters,” Cunha and Milz wrote. “When they went out into the streets with their ladies or children, they were displayed in fine, jeweled garments.
“The slave herself was an object of the owner’s ostentation, a luxury object to be shown publicly.”
Used as status symbols, the image with Meirelles seems identical.
Shelby Christie, a former Vogue employee, agreed, writing on twitter, “There appears to be a Brazilian slave and master theme.”
“Mucamas (house slaves) who were very clearly darker complexioned, were posed as props alongside guests. The uniform of the Mucamas, house slaves, was usually a white linen or cotton dress.”
As many Americans know, liberals and democrats, which appears to be the bent of the fashion magazine in recent years, have always supported the slave system.
In the 1960’s, democrats fought the republican-led Civil Rights Movement, and also founded the hate group the Ku Klux Klan.
“Christie, who now hosts a podcast discussing the cultural impact blackness has had on the fashion world, wrote that the white dresses and head wraps worn by the black women” at Meirelles’ party were “not coincidental.”
To demonstrate, Christie uploaded photographs of Brazilian female slaves from the 19th century in similar costume, adorning their white masters.
“Brazil did not outlaw slavery until 1888, almost the 20th century. Brazil, not America, has the largest population of people of African decent living outside of Africa – By 1888 Brazil had 40% of the total slave population in the Americas,” she added.
In a now-deleted response on Instagram, Meirelles claimed the party “wasn’t a theme party,” that the women were not “dressed as slaves, but as party girls from Bahia.” She also claimed that the chair was not a throne but “a chair from candomblé: an Afro-Brasilian religion.
Meirelles also said that she didn’t purposefully evoke slavery “but if it looked otherwise, I’m sorry,” she said.
The magazine then explained that they support the “construction of a more just society, in which the historical inequalities of the country are debated and faced.”
Hard to do that with directors living lavish lifestyles surrounded by slave images, but apparently, that’s not a concern.