A row over alleged racism and attacks on freedom of expression has erupted in France after students forced the Sorbonne to cancel a performance of a Greek tragedy featuring actors using black masks, claiming it was “Afrophobic, colonialist and racist”.
Protesters picketed the prestigious Paris university, stopping actors from entering the theatre and accusing them of using blackface for the play The Suppliants by Aeschylus.
A photograph on the Sorbonne’s website publicising the event showed one of the cast in dark makeup. Protesters said actors had blacked up in last year’s performances of the work, which features in the university’s annual ancient Greek theatre festival.
Here’s that photo:
In a joint statement Frédérique Vidal, the higher education and research minister, and Franck Riester, the culture minister, expressed their “stupefaction”. They said preventing the performance was “an unprecedented attack on freedom of expression and creation in a university, which is contrary to all academic values and republican principles”.
The Sorbonne said the play recounted the story of the Greek Argives and the Danaids – the 50 daughters of Danaus from Egypt – and was to be performed strictly according to ancient theatre practices “with actors wearing white masks and black masks as was done at the time”.
“Stopping by force and insulting the cast of a piece of theatre is a very serious and totally unjustified attack on artistic freedom,” it wrote in a statement.
It added that accusing the production of “racism or racialism” showed “a complete lack of understanding”. “Liberty, diversity, creativity, the rigour and openness are founding values of the Sorbonne University, which is profoundly humanist and anti-racist,” it wrote.
Yes, but notice: the radicals won that night. The play did not go on. The Sorbonne says it only postponed the play, that it will re-stage it.
Here’s a link to raw video of these large men intimidating theatergoers and not allowing them to pass. Below, a screenshot of this happening. Where were the police? Why were they not called? Thesethugs preventing the public from going to see a performance of an ancient Greek play should have been arrested. They interfered with the right of those theatergoers, as citizens of a free country, and refused to allow them to partake of their cultural patrimony?