Belgian festival under fire over blackface 'savage' character

A Belgian festival has come under fire after a white performer in a blackface disguise paraded through the town of Ath on Sunday (local time).

The festival, called Ducasse d'Ath, featured a white man coated in black nicknamed 'the Savage'.

He walked through the streets with chains around his wrists and a large piercing in his nose, screaming and scaring children.

While the festival traces its roots back to the 16th century and is endorsed by UNESCO as a cultural heritage, anti-racism groups say the character isn't acceptable.

"This character has all the degrading attributes that black people are given in the racist imagery of our societies," said Mouhad Reghif, a spokesman for anti-racism group Brussels Panthers.

"It is totally racist and it maintains a degrading image of the black person, which has consequences in everyday life," he added.

However the mayor of Ath, Bruno Lefebvre, rejected the criticism.

It's mostly people from outside who talk about racism, anti-black sentiment. At Ath, we never considered 'the Savage' to be a racist figure," he told Reuters.

"It is rather a character that the inhabitants of Ath adore... when one get a kiss from 'the Savage', we have good luck all the year ahead."

Reuters / Newshub.

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