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Yemen Ramadan show sparks outcry over use of blackface
SUN, 04/25/2021 - 14:40

Ramadan is the season of sitcoms and TV series around the Middle East, but particularly in Yemen, where few channels show fictional shows outside of the Muslim holy month of fasting.
After breaking their fast at sunset, many Yemenis like to tune in and watch TV with their families. 
Most TV channels in Yemen show series that project the political views of their owners and operators, six years into the Saudi-led offensive in the country against Houthi rebels.
But, while the politicisation of Ramadan shows isn't unusual in Yemen, one new series, Cappuccino, has caused a significant stir by featuring two actors in blackface.
Blackface is the act of darkening one's skin tone in what has been denounced as a racist caricature of Black people and appropriation of Black cultures. It has a long history both in the Middle East and beyond.
Cappuccino, which is broadcast on Yemen Shabab TV, based in Turkey, depicts two Black characters working as servants in a coffee shop. But they are played by Yemeni actors in blackface speaking purposefully broken Arabic to mimic African refugees in Yemen.
A number of scenes in Cappuccino have been criticised, including one in which the actress in blackface kisses a lighter-skinned Yemeni woman on the cheek and the latter expresses visible disgust.
In another scene, the same actress in blackface introduces herself as the "manager of the toilets".
The show has caused outrage, with some calling for Yemen Shabab TV to cancel Cappuccino altogether. The famous Yemeni cartoonist Rashad Al-Samie has also stepped into the fray.
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