Shimaa Seif
Shimaa Seif

An Egyptian actress has gone under fire for appearing in blackface and promoting racism in a prank show broadcast on the MBC network.

In several episodes of the satirical Shaklabaz program, Shimaa Seif appeared with her skin painted significantly darker and seemed to mimic the Sudanese accentAs part of her pranks, she annoyed minibus passengers, attempted to steal their phones, and pretended to drink alcohol.

The episode has been widely deemed as offensive to the people of Sudan, particularly Sudanese women, with many social media users calling out the actress for the derogatory portrayal.

In one clip, Seif appears as a sluggish dark-skinned woman who attempts to steal passengers' phones.

Meanwhile, in another, she is seen wearing a headscarf that resembles those worn by Sudanese women, while arguing with a male passenger. She goes on to drink what appears to be alcohol and later starts dancing and ululating with her friend.

The clips have caused quite the outrage online, with many social media users condemning Seif for appearing in blackface and demeaning Sudanese women.

In response, an official from the Egyptian Journalists' Syndicate, Ahmed Ramadan, has lodged a complaint against Seif with the Egyptian National Media Authority, which is in charge of Egyptian state media, according to The New Arab.

Speaking to Erem News, Seif said she "did not intend to insult the beloved Sudanese people nor darker-skinned individuals," adding that "the program is comedic and only aims to make people laugh."

She went on to say, "It was simply a character I was performing, just like every actor performs a certain role."

"For all those who interpreted my performance in a wrong way, I apologize, even though I did not intend to mock anybody," she added.

Here's how social media users reacted to the clips:

People find it inexcusable

Where exactly is the alleged comedy?

Racism is no joke

"Utterly racist and disgusting"

How did the entire production team think this was OK?

"As an Egyptian, I do not condone this act"

Here's a more accurate depiction of Sudanese women

"The Sudanese are bigger and more noble than this decadence"

"At a time when the entire world and global media are praising the Sudanese revolution and the leading role women are playing in it, this allegedly comedic Ramadan program comes along and insults the great Sudanese population. The Sudanese are bigger and more noble than this decadence and are busy with matters more important than this silliness."

Not the first time blackface appears in Arab media

Blackface is "a form of theatrical make-up used predominantly by non-black performers to represent a caricature of a black person." While there has been increasing awareness on the matter, blackface and stereotypical portrayals of darker-skinned people continue to plague mass media and pop culture until this very day. 

The problem lies in the fact that while non-blacks flaunt blackface in films, magazine covers, and Halloween costumes, darker-skinned individuals  continue to face discrimination in many parts of the world, including Arab countries.

Blackface has appeared on Arab screens on multiple occasions over the years, such as in Egyptian comedy series Azmi we Ashgan and Kuwaiti comedy series Block Ghashmara, both of which were released during Ramadan 2018.