Dolce & Gabbana Resurrect The Mammy Figure On The Runway


Ladies and gentlemen, the saga continues and we are once again left asking who, what, where, and most importantly why? It seems as if European countries can’t get enough of using stereotypical images of Black women, their bodies and images in order to create “art”.

Earlier this year it was the Swedish artist, Makode Linde, who wanted to shed light on female genital mutilation through the form of Black face. Linde accomplished this by creating a cake modeled after the figure of a Black woman and then inviting a Swedish audience to cut into the cake, which was symbolic of her vagina. And this was deemed art? How wonderful.

Spain was next on the list with their depiction of First Lady Michelle Obama in slave attire and half nude on the cover of Fuera de Serie magazine. Another form of artistic expression? How fantastic.

And now, Italy takes center stage during Dolce & Gabbana’s 2012 spring collection runway show with more buffoonery. Inspired by the presence of the Moors (Arabs, Muslims, Berbers, and West Africans) in Italy, the models are dressed in garments that are imprinted with Black faces. They also are wearing earrings that are very reminiscent of mammy or aunt Jemima imagery.

After checking out several responses to the D&G runway show sentiments seem mixed, ranging from utter outrage to appreciation of the representation of African culture by such esteemed designers. I guess outrage is justified considering the continual exploitation of Black women’s bodies. However, for those of you who believe that Dolce & Gabbana are paying some sort of tribute to Black women and African culture by dangling mammy heads from white girls’ ears, you are truly missing the point.

Once again, the historical and social implications of these damaging images are completely absent. The artists are completely detached and utterly ignorant to the black experience. When I watched the runway show on, I was instantly reminded of the characterization of Blacks in minstrel shows. The Black skin, exaggerated eyes, and big red lips. How did these images that are visual examples of the historical degradation of Black women become fashion symbols? Is this for real? Of course it is. Am I surprised? In light of everything that is happening in the media, not really.

If this was truly about highlighting the influence, beauty and culture of the Moors and their rule in Southern Europe from 711-1492, then why not have models that represent what a “Moor” looks like. The term in itself is problematic, especially since in Europe it is often used with pejorative connotations when referring to Muslims, Arabs, Berbers, and West Africans. In addition, since all of these groups of people are brown-skinned, this runway show should have had at least some people of color in order to be true to the reasoning behind the theme.

And yet, no brown faces in sight. Not one! Once again, black and brown people are regulated to the sidelines only to be displayed as accessories to white bodies. I can’t help but be disturbed and confused as to why D&G thought this would be a great idea in the first place.

Watch the fashion show below and share your thoughts on D&G’s spring collection.


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