Human Rights Lawyer Criticized For ‘Blackface’ Portraits Used To Raise Awareness Of African Tribes ‘Fading Away’

A human rights lawyer and journalist from Nyíregyháza, Hungry, is under fire for creating “blackface” portraits of herself to raise awareness for fading African tribes. The woman, Boglarka Balogh, photoshopped her face onto images of women from some of the African tribes that she says are “fading away” in a bid to raise awareness of the plight of the female tribe members. However, the journalist and human rights advocate quickly learned that even a good-hearted art project can be turned into something negative by its viewers.

Boglarka Balogh
Human rights lawyer Boglarka was criticized for her use of "blackface" in a series of photographs depicting tribal women. (Image via Bored Panda)

The Daily Mail reports that Boglarka Balogh learned the hard way that sometimes art comes at a cost. The journalist had hoped to raise awareness for a number of African tribes that are slowing becoming endangered and fading away. She says that she was inspired to complete the project after spending time in a number of African countries and being made aware of the issues that tribe’s face.

Balogh says that the project was meant to highlight how beauty varies across the globe but show that we are all beautiful in our own special way. Sadly for the human rights lawyer, the message of the project was lost due to the fact that the only thing some people could see was the “blackface.” For the images created in the project, Balogh photoshopped her own face onto the bodies of African women, making her own skin tone that of the tribal women. She then posted the series of images to Bored Panda with the title “I Morphed Myself Into African Tribal Women To Raise Awareness Of Their Secluded Culture.” However, in the process, many people said she was marginalizing the plight of these black women by using them as a costume that can be put on and taken off.

Here are some of the scathing comments Balogh received on her photographs.

Blackface Tribal Women 2
Blackface Tribal Women 2
Blackface Tribal Women 2
Blackface Tribal Women 2

The users all seemed to imply that the journalist was racist for photoshopping her skin black, likening the photo project to the racist practice of blackface. The negative comments from offended people were enough to cause Boglarka Balogh to remove the project and replace it with a semi-apology, noting that she is sorry her idea and meaning was lost on those viewing it. In her interview with FEMAIL, Balogh says the negative comments are proof that something beautiful and good-hearted can be turned negative by “ignorance and guilt from the past and history.”

“My intention was 100% pure with this tribal art, being a human right lawyer and journalist who knows pretty much about racism and similar issues, I have never imagined that my work will annoy so many people and that I will have to explain myself. And sure, I will not do that. Keep calm and love every human.”

Balogh says if she must clarify her art, it is best to be removed, but notes that the whole idea behind the project was that we are all beautiful and human regardless of skin color. It seems that the message in the project was designed to show that color is unimportant and if Balogh hadn’t showed her original photograph, many viewers would have likely been unable to tell that the images were photoshopped. Therefore, the idea presented is that we are all the same on the inside simply with different appearances on the outside.

What do you think about the negative backlash to Balogh’s human rights art project? Was the art truly racist or should all viewers take into account the meaning and idea behind the piece before judging it so harshly? Is it a racist portrayal to say that all human beings are the same regardless of skin color and to attempt to portray that “sameness” and unity by showing a flow between two skin colors? Would Balogh’s project have been better understood had she also photoshopped the tribal women onto her body? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below.

[Image via Bored Panda/Boglarka Balogh]