It's 2018, but Sana Safinaz still doesn't understand racism

Updated 09 Mar, 2018 05:40pm

Images Staff

Not a first time offender, Sana Safinaz's latest lawn campaign bears some troubling racist undertones

It's lawn season again, and you know what that means — nope, not summery breezey joras — we're talking about scandal.

Designer brand Sana Safinaz's highly anticipated lawn catalogue has sparked online outrage this week for its racist representation of the Masai people.

The catalogue, which was shot in the Masai Mara national park of Kenya, features tribespeople positioned with Sana Safinaz's lawn-clad models.

So is it really racism?

While we can't speak to the intention behind the campaign, the concept and styling of Sana Safinaz's campaign immediately insinuate a power differential between the Pakistani models and the Masai models -- and that's a problem.

In one photograph a Masai tribesman holds an umbrella over a model's head. One can't help but view this photograph as glamourising servitude; when you take into account the African continent's history with slavery the image becomes even more troubling. Historically, black bodies have been treated as objects to either serve or entertain their colonisers, and reinforcing this stereotype in a photograph is just plain wrong.

Another photo features several tribespeople performing around a model who appears to assert her authority with a dominant hands-on-hip pose. A third image features a model resting her elbow on a Kenyan man, as if he's an inanimate object.

The images are uncomfortable because they appear to be using the Masai people as props.

We would've liked to see our Pakistani models genuinely interacting with the local population, becoming one with the environment rather than adopting a posture of haughty dominance.

We're not the only ones who think this.

The images have elicited a backlash on social media, with commentators calling the campaign "offensive" and "racist."

The brand deleted some comments from their official social media account, yet the criticism continued to pour in:

Twitter called them out on being repeat offenders.

Many are just surprised that tone-deafness like this could occur in 2018.

Update: Sana Safinaz has issued an apology for their lawn catalogue, saying that they did not intend to offend anyone and that their intention was to "showcase [their] product in a different way, never to exploit or conjure up negative thoughts or ideas":

Lawn 2018

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