Eight Harcourt staff were filmed wearing black faces and afro or beaded wigs at the company’s annual national conference this week.
The real estate agency’s national conference was held at the SkyCity Convention Center in Auckland from May 21 to 23.
Tuesday night’s “Game On” conference networking night invited agents to dress like their favorite athlete or team.
On Wednesday, a video of the event with the Harcourts brand was uploaded to Facebook by photo booth company Ouisnapnz, showing eight or nine people who appeared to be dressed like a Cameroonian sports team.
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Images show the group wearing black wigs, matching t-shirts, red, yellow and green sweatbands around their heads and their faces covered in black paint.
It is understood that a Harcourts real estate agent operates Ouisnapnz.
Blackface was and is a form of makeup used primarily by non-black artists to represent a caricature or stereotype of a black person.
Originating in the United States in the early 19th century, blackface was used in minstrel performances, which featured comedy skits, music, and dancing to make fun of people of African descent.
Harcourt general manager Chris Kennedy confirmed that a group arrived at the event dressed as the missing Cameroon Commonwealth Games team.
“It came to the attention of this group that some party attendees were offended by the black makeup they wore,” Kennedy said in a statement.
“Since there was no intention to offend, they responded to the concerns and left.”
But this excuse is “not enough”, according to Camille Nakhid, associate professor of social sciences at the Auckland University of Technology.
Nakhid, from Trinidad and Tobago, said people wearing blackface demonstrated “the sheer and utter ignorance of the people.”
“The fact that people have no empathy and don’t want to engage in a conversation or know about blackface just shows a sense of entitlement,” Nakhid said.
She was “sick and tired” of hearing people say they didn’t mean to offend.
“These would be people who are literate enough to know what’s going on in the world, who read the media, and yet they persist. They know blackface is derogatory, they know it’s demeaning to people.”
Although people are often called out to wear blackface, she said, there has rarely been any fallout. It reinforced the idea that what they were doing was OK.
The Human Rights Commission has also been approached for comment.
KIWI BLACKFACE CONTROVERSIES
* Last year, Maori comedian Jimi Jackson sparked controversy when he uploaded a photo of himself to Snapchat and Instagram captioned “Jimi Blackson”.
* In 2016, photos of people dressed in blackface appeared following a ‘Too Soon’ party hosted at a Palmerston North bar on August 19 by the Massey University Veterinary Student Association (MUVSA). Former human rights commissioner Dame Susan Devoy condemned the students’ costumes.
* The single person Star Art Green found herself in hot water in 2015 for attending Colin Mathura-Jeffree’s Bollywood themed party in blackface.
* Earlier that year, New Zealand X-Factor judge Shelton Woolright was criticized for using blackface in his performances.
* In 2013, Burgerfuel head office apologized for a publicity stunt where the Parnell store in Auckland asked a man to paint his face black and distribute flyers to promote Jamaican burger, “Usain Poultry” .