Huoltamo Gallery Tampere and Finnish Labor Museum Werstas TR06 2006.

21st Millennium Blackface reduces black identity to a limited set of exaggerated physical features: curly hair, shamelessly thick red lips, bulging white eyes, and licorice black skin. Blackface has surrounded Europeans and Americans with schematic representations ranging from corporate brands to children’s room toys. The Blackface show tradition originated among Caucasian Americans in the 1830s, at a time when black slaves were gathering cotton for the New Orleans cotton market to be exported to Europe and also to Tampere Finland.

The Blackface show was the first true American form of entertainment with its own songs and theatrical performances. In the shows, the crazy-dressed figures painted black constantly stole the chickens and repeatedly struck their thick red lips into the red interior of the watermelon. Blackface no longer found room for itself in the changed of American cultural climate since the 1960s when the black civil rights struggle had demanded equal rights for all, regardless of skin color. The 21st millennium Blackface has survived its seemingly apolitical life in images and representations of peripheral cultures.

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