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Royal Opera removes poster after racism accusations

Published fredag 13 november 2015 kl 19.55
"He wasn't portraying any kind of discriminative or racist sentiments."
(0:58 min)
The Swedish Royal Opera. File photo: Anders Wiklund / TT
The Swedish Royal Opera. File photo: Anders Wiklund / TT

A poster featuring a white foot pressed against the face of a black man, which was going to be used to advertise the Swan Lake ballet in Stockholm's Royal Swedish Opera, has stirred controversy in the country.

The same day the poster was displayed earlier this week, the institution decided to withdraw the campaign, Swedish broadcaster SVT reports.

The Royal Opera explained that there were no racist intentions behind the picture and that it was supposed to portray the intimate relationship between the prince and the swan, two characters in Tchaikovsky's ballet.

The black dancer featured in the picture, Clyde Emmanuel Archer, talked to SVT and said that he thinks the debate is necessary but that the intention behind the campaign was purely artistic.

"It was 100 percent beauty and I think that's what the artist was portraying. He wasn't portraying any kind of discriminative or racist sentiments or trying to reflect what is actually going on in the world," Archer says.

Araia Ghirmai Sebhatu, head of the civil rights organization Black Coffee, was one of the first to protest against the poster.

"This is about what this picture is associated with by the public and its connotations," Ghirmai Sebhatu tells SVT.

"For me, this picture doesn't not represent intimacy. For me, it represents violence against black bodies. For me and for many other African Swedes," he adds.

The choreographer, Mats Ek, has criticized the Royal Opera for removing the poster without asking him first.

"They called me in the morning and then everything was done. It's weird and it's a pity that they gave in to these opinions. And I think that, to be honest, it's an odd argumentation they're presenting to make their point," Ek tells newspaper Dagens Nyheter.

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