Damir Kedzo Croatia Eurovision 2020 Divlji Vjetre

He’s the singer who was due to represent Croatia at Eurovision 2020. But some of Damir Kedžo‘s earlier performances have attracted criticism and resulted in the singer reflecting and offering an apology.

In 2016, Kedžo’s was a contestant on Tvoje lice zvuči poznato — the Croatian version of the popular reality television franchise Your Face Sounds Familiar. In the show, celebrity contestants give performances impersonating music stars.

Kedžo won his series after impressing viewers with 12 weeks of performances. While Kedžo’s gave performances from artists such as Tom Jones, Doris Dragović, Jack Shears of the Scissors Sisters and Lady Gaga, he also performed songs by artists of colour.

That in itself isn’t bad, but the performances were accompanied by dark makeup, which is known as blackface. During the series Kedžo also gave performances from Tina Turner, The Weeknd and Maurice White of Earth, Wind & Fire.

The performances surfaced again after Damir was selected to represent Croatia at Eurovision 2020. He was criticised by fans who felt the performances were offensive and inappropriate.

Damir Kedžo responds to criticism of his blackface performances

Kedžo addressed the criticism in a series of posts on Twitter. He began by setting the scene, saying “racism is all around us”. He also mentioned “recent events in the United States”, likely a reference to the death of Minneapolis man George Floyd.

Kedžo also claimed that every song performed on the show has to be approved by the song’s publisher. However, this cannot be taken as an endorsement from the artist themself as many artists do not hold the publication rights to their own songs.

Kedžo also revealed that he’d recently had an eye-opening moment after reading an article. He asked fans if they would be offended by someone impersonating a disabled artist in a wheelchair, and he reckoned most would find it tasteless.

Kedžo concluded by offering an apology for hurting people with his blackface performance. He said he was “not aware” and “would never do anything to intentionally hurt anyone.” He also claimed that he did not address the issue earlier as if did not want it to seem “tacky and insincere” to do it during Eurovision season.

Why are blackface performances problematic?

Blackface has its origins in American minstrel shows of the mid to late 19th century. White performers used black greasepaint makeup to parody African-American people. As Vox explains, “Taking place against the backdrop of a society that systematically mistreated and dehumanized black people, they were mocking portrayals that reinforced the idea that African-Americans were inferior in every way.”

The American academic David Leonard told Vox that contemporary blackface “reinforces the idea that black people are appropriate targets of ridicule and mockery and reminds us of stereotypes about black criminality, and danger.”

The website also notes that “not feeling racist when you’re wearing blackface does nothing to change how it affects those who see it”. They also note that due to the internet, blackface photos and videos can spread a lot further than its intended audience.

Outside of the United States, there is some history of blackface performance in countries such as the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Germany and Portugal. There is less of a history in Eastern European countries — and many of those countries have also featured blackface performances on local editions of Your Face Sounds Familiar.

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