A Hungarian journalist and human rights lawyer wanted to call attention to women from tribes across Africa who she said are "at the brink of extinction," but the Internet was not having it.
Boglarka Balogh submitted an article and photo series to BoredPanda, but has since deleted it after it sparked controversy.
She posted seven photos, each showing a photo of women from tribes from Ethiopia, Kenya, Namibia and other African countries, specifically the Himba, Turkana, Mursi, Arbore, Daasanach, Karo and Wodaabe communities, according to the Guardian. Next to these photos was a version that had Balogh's face and features transposed over it, that was edited by artist Csaba Szabó .
Since the project was posted to the site, the comments section received pages of criticism calling the project racist and insensitive, and called the finished product blackface.
The original post has now been replaced it with a message maintaining that Balogh's intentions for the project were pure.
"I have never imagined that my work will annoy so many people and that I will have to explain myself," she writes. The Guardian says that in her original post, she writes that her goal was to celebrate these “stunning tribal beauties at the brink of extinction."
In one response to a comment, Balogh says she got the idea after travelling to Africa and being dressed up by tribal women in their traditional clothing, and that many of them approved.
The post is still being viewed and commented on. The Guardian reported it was viewed more than 130,000 times yesterday. It's now jumped to 231,000.
While some appreciated the fact that she wanted to highlight these different tribes, to many, it came across as her highlighting herself. Across Twitter and blogs, people questioned why she wouldn't use the original photos as a standalone to draw attention to the beauty of these tribes.
Credit: Mario Gerth
@kashmirVIII Why not just use pictures of the actual people she tried to recreate? IMO she ended up making it about her rather than them.— HabitualLineStepper (@AdrianNichols) January 6, 2016
great concept but you could've used actual tribal women instead of yourself to raise awareness lmao. pic.twitter.com/SfpBx6yWPt— jessikawaii (@jessicagravity) January 7, 2016
A Hungarian version is still posted on the site Szeretlek Magyarország, and seems to have been viewed positively by her Facebook friends (based on Facebook auto translations and emojis).
Jezebel put out a satirical piece about the project titled: "World Weeps in Gratitude for Woke Hungarian Who Did 7 Types of Blackface to Save Africa From Going Extinct," commenting on the small-scale approval Boglarka received.
In interviews with Buzzfeed, and Hungarian news site VS.hu, however, Balogh seems blithely unaware of why her project caused so much controversy.
She told BuzzFeed News that she was confused by the outrage from Americans on Facebook and thought it was blown out of proportion.
Blackface is a product of the U.S., where it was used in the past in theatre and minstrel shows designed to mock black people and their features. It is still even used today, but knowledge of this history doesn't seem as pronounced in Hungary. The country's population is mostly Hungarian, Romani and German, and its black population is small.
But Balogh tells Buzzfeed she "would only willingly pay attention attention to negative comments from those who" have volunteered in marginalized countries the way she has.
In her interview with VS.hu (which was loosely translated using Google Translate), she says she is still proud of her project and shares sentiments similar to what she shared with Buzzfeed.
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