Lewes bonfire society members who were urged to stop painting their faces black complied on Saturday night, symbolically throwing a tin of black paint into the flames to mark the end of a tradition that had been dubbed racist. The society agreed to stop using black face paint and wearing skulls and horns as part of its Zulu costumes – a practice that had been going on since at least the second world war. The society’s chairman threw a mocked up can of “Zulux” black paint into a fire in Lewes High Street at around 1.30am, according to committee member Mick Symes, who said: “The debate is finished.” The society acted after an ultimatum from Thanda Gumede, the leader of a dance troupe from Kwa Zulu-Natal, who said his group would not perform unless blacking-up stopped. Gumede, 32, who lives in Leeds, said he was very pleased with the response and that it was “extremely emotional” to see the group responding to his concerns.

Robert Booth in Lewes bonfire society ends tradition of blacking-up (Guardian)

Scores of readers posted on the Sussex Express Facebook page following our story last week, the vast majority defending Borough Bonfire Society’s Zulu warrior tradition. It came in response to an online petition launched on the Bonfire Against Racisim website condemning white people “blacking up”. The site described it as a “racist practice”. Lisa Halls posted: “This article makes me incredibly sad.” “There are some very narrow minded people out there who should take a long hard look at themselves.” Claire-bear Heaver said the Borough Zulus had been around for as many years as she could remember and asked: “So why is it all of a sudden racist now?” Bonnie Stevens posted: “When there are murderers, rapists, terrorists and druggies running around loose, people painting their faces is nothing. “The do-gooders going on about PC want to concentrate on their own lives, not everyone else’s.” Bill Purcell said: “Ye gods, idiots have no bounds in this world now. What is happening to tradition? I can remember this happening when I was a child, and that is more than 70-plus years ago. Get real you lot. Perhaps a smile from you now and again would help instead of rolling out tripe.” Other commentators said the next target might be to outlaw the Morris dancers who “black up”. Damien Brennan asked if dressing-up as Vikings was offensive to Northern European folk.

Rupert Taylor in “Blacking up” for Bonfire is not racist, say angry readers (Sussexexpress)

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