Stellenbosch 'black face' students apologise.

By Drum Digital
25 September 2014

The three say the caption on the photo, had no malicious meaning behind it.

Stellenbosch University students Mark Burman, Ross Bartlett and Michael Weaver who took a picture of the 'black face' on the 20th of September at a party which has caused fracas in the media as to its racist conotations, have apologised via facebook in a joint statement. Here is the full statement;

Hi all,

In light of what happened yesterday, Michael, Ross and I would like to make a statement which we have written together, communicating our side of the story. On Saturday the 20th of September, we attended two friends of ours’ 21st, who are twins. And so, aptly, the theme for the event was “Twinning”, which implies twins that are winning.

Ross and I decided, in the spirit of the 21st, to attend the event as Serena and Venus Williams, who, as I’m sure you all know, are iconic famous American sporting siblings. To make us more recognisable as the sibling characters, we painted our entire bodies; this was not intended to represent a racial stereotype but rather to directly depict and represent the sisters.

Unfortunately, as we all know this has resulted in the misinterpretation of painting our bodies black and has been associated with “black facing”, which we now know is a disparaging practice used to portray offensive racial stereotypes, and we cannot stress enough that this was not our intent. We are aware that this has caused a lot of hurt, and we would like to reassure you that there was absolutely no malicious or racial intent in what we did; it was an error in judgement on all our behalves, and we regret this.

From the beginning, we went to the event with the intent of ‘dressing up’ and representing two famous, widely recognised sporting siblings, and not to offend with racial malice; we do not take it lightly that we have been associated with this. There was no racial undertone to the costume. This was not us dressing as a ‘blackface minstrel’, in the sense of theatrical makeup used to perpetuate racial stereotypes and caricatures, or to denigrate those who we were aiming to portray; this was simply us dressing up as two successful sporting siblings, as authentically as possible. As such, this incident is entirely distinct from the recent incident to which comparisons have been drawn in the media.

I (Michael) posted the photo onto social media on Sunday morning, with the intent of sharing a photo of myself and two of my closest friends enjoying the 21st event. The caption too, had no malicious meaning behind it, and I did not realise the gravity of the comment at the time.

To those of you who know us, we trust that you know that we would absolutely never knowingly discriminate against another race or culture. We would like to thank those of you who have shown us support; we really appreciate it so much. We are currently in the process of going through various procedures with the University in order to resolve this situation.

This post is not a forum for debate, but rather an opportunity for us to get our side of the story across and share our intentions; we would appreciate your respect of this post in light of the sensitivity and severity of this situation.

Once again, thank you all for your support. It has been invaluable over the past 24 hours.

Kind regards,

Mark BurmanRoss Bartlett and Michael Weaver

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