I know I’m a little late to the game on this, but I wanted to get your reaction to an image that was unveiled late last month.
This photo appeared on the August 2012 cover of Spanish Magazine Fuera de Serie. It was taken from Karine Percheron-Daniels’ Famous Nudes series and was created by super imposing Obama’s face onto the body of a black slave woman during in the 1800s “Portrait d’une négresse” by French artist Marie-Guillemine Benoist.
In response to the backlash, the artist wrote on her website:
If any of you have found this piece of art insulting I would like to say that my GENUINE intention was never to chock or upset anyone. I created this picture as part of a series of other famous nudes. As an artist I only paint and create pictures of people I admire and feel passionate about Michelle Obama is one of these people.
In my eyes , the picture I created here is of a beautiful woman with a beautiful message: The first Lady of America in the first time in history is a black woman who proudly and confidently displays her WOMANHOOD (the nude) her ROOTS (the slave) and her POWER(the First Lady of America embraced by the American flag). This picture, is a celebration of EVERYTHING GOOD, it is a celebration of achievement and in my opinion is not a racist slur.
I am not a racist: I admire people regardless of their colour and this picture was meant to be a tribute….totally lost in translation. With my art I try and show beauty NOT DIRT.
Like the Clutch Magazine article I linked above, this image is nothing short of blatant racist propaganda. It robs Michelle Obama of her voice, her agency and control over how her image. It further reduces the respectability of prominent black women and perpetuates the stereotype that black women’s bodies and our images are fair game for the media to other. It promotes the stereotype that our bodies, whether real or imagined by mainstream Western society, are not for black women to enjoy and to control.
To the artist: the reason why your piece has been deemed racist is because you felt it was your duty to rob the first lady of her agency and individualism and exploit black women’s tragic history as slaves in this country. If you truly respected and admired Michelle Obama, you would have respected her right to control her image and would dare to use such racist imagery to represent her.
Yes, Michelle Obama has made history and she is a beautiful woman who is proud of her roots. However, using your white privilege, you took it upon yourself to use her image to perpetuate a stereotype that slave women were inherently less respectable and less feminine, which bred a belief that our bodies did not deserve protection and modesty. And, while the good ol U.S. of A. has come a long way in electing America’s first black present, old habits die hard and black women’s bodies still do not garner the respect and reverence that’s afforded to white women.
What do you think about the magazine cover?