Contestants talked about how ‘difficult’ it is to apply makeup on dusky skin, and one even used an offensive slang word for someone of African origin.

Pak TV show under fire for blackfacing models while showcasing makeup for dark skin Photos: Twitter
Social Colourism Saturday, March 17, 2018 - 17:30

A segment on a Pakistani show, called Jago Pakistan Jago (translates from Hindi to “Awaken, Pakistan, awaken!”), has recently come under fire for mocking dark skin and showcasing blackface.

Obsession with fair skin, especially in south Asia, is no secret. But this particular segment of the show took it to a whole other offensive level.

Titled ‘Mera Makeup Hai Kamaal’, the segment gave contestants the task of doing bridal makeup for dark-skinned women. This shouldn’t have been an issue, because there are a number of women with naturally dark skin in the country, much like India and other parts of Asia.

Bridal makeup often makes it about making dark women look fairer because the idea of beauty, in popular perception, is tied to lighter skin colour. So it would not have been surprising if that’s what had happened in this show as well.

Also read: Why do brides have to paint their faces white? This bridal make-up artist asks

However, what happened was this – the show got fair-skinned models. Makeup artists then put a much darker makeup cover on their faces to make them appear ‘dark’, hence eligible for the task.

A few contestants reportedly went on to say that applying makeup on dark skin was a challenge and one even pointed out that she had never applied makeup on a ‘habshan’, an offensive slang used to describe a woman or girl of African origin.

Audiences did not take well to this appropriation of darker skin by fair people, especially in a region where colourism continues to be rampant.

Many also called out ‘Jago Pakistan Jago’ and the host of the show Sanam Jung, for showcasing blackface on the show.

A Vox piece titled "Don't get what's wrong with blackface? Here's why it's so offensive" tells you exactly why fair people putting dark makeup on their faces and pretending dark skinned, and/or enhancing a costume, is deeply problematic.

Blackface is the practice which originated in the mid to late 19th century in the United States of America. White actors would don use grease paint on their faces to play slaves or free black people on stage. But these representations were caricatures, mocked black people and added to their dehumanization and perception that they were inferior because of the colour of their skin.

When people saw the ‘Jago Pakistan Jago’ segment, and the words used by contestants to describe naturally dark skinned people (Habshi, Makrani and Negro), they were understandably displeased.

The controversy comes just a few days after Pakistani clothing brand, Sana Safinaz, was accused by Twitterati for using Kenyan nationals as ‘props’ for the brand’s 2018 Spring Summer collection.

While the pictures and posts about the episode have been deleted from the official Facebook page of the show, there has been no official statement from the producers or the channel owners of Hum TV, on which the show is telecast, with regards to the incident.

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