Unicef’s Blackface Ads in Germany

Sometimes I wish these NGO’s would stop and think for a minute. I don’t know who they hire to do their PR work, but it tends to run from the sublime to the ridiculous, especially when the subject is Africa.

I got this from a friend, and these are apparently ads that are running for a UNICEF campaign in Germany to raise awareness (and get people to dig in their wallets) about poverty in Africa. A Black German Media Watch Organization called Der Braune Mob is organizing people to respond to it. I do not speak German–but I was sent these translations, which I have posted underneath each photo–so if there are German speakers who read my blog, feel free to correct the translations.


“I’m waiting for my last day in school, the children in Africa still for their first one.”


“In Africa, many kids would be glad to worry about school.”


“In Africa, kids don’t come to school late, but not at all.”


“Some teachers suck. No teachers sucks even more.”

Unfortunately, if it was clear to the average German that this is wrong, UNICEF and the advertising agency wouldn’t come out with such a campaign.

The following is part of the message in my email I received:

Please write your opinion and help make clear and explain why it is wrong to use “blackface with mud”, and write to UNICEF at publicrelations@unicef.de as well as the advertising agency at info@jvm.de with a copy to Black German media-watch-orgaiztion info@derbraunemob.de what you feel about this campaign and why. Please include a line that you’re going to publish your mail and the response.

By the way, the slogan of the advertising agency who came up with this, reads “we communicate on eye-level.”

9 thoughts on “Unicef’s Blackface Ads in Germany

  1. Talk about flipping the script on the minstrel show of another time in history! Whichever way you look at it, sending a message about other people’s children through stereotypical caricatures takes away from the original intent of the message. There’s nothing positive about fixing your PR gaze on the “otherness” of Black children not only in Africa but throughout its diaspora . Objectifying African children is hardly funny or innocent. As a child of proud African parents, and mother of two African sons, I find it deeply offensive. UNICEF is an agency of the United Nations. We can only hope that it will make a public statement – from a human rights perspective. I know I’m holding my breath on this one.

  2. Your quotes are messed up. The only correct one is the 3rd pic. The first pic should have the 2nd quote and the second picture should have the fourth quote and the last picture should have the first quote. I don’t know enough German to give you better translations, but I can definitley tell that you’ve got them in the wrong order.

  3. The translations are good (ja, ich spreche Deutsch). Rebecca is right about the order.
    Yeah, UNICEF certainly screwed up with these ads. My guess is that they were created by a German who hasn’t a clue about how blackface is viewed in the United States. Even if that’s true, though, UNICEF should have known better.

  4. Thanks for the correction on the captions Rebecca. I’ll fix it. Jeff–it was an Afro-German media watch group called Der Braune Mob that launched the campaign against these images. So if Black people in Germany were offended by them, white Germans cannot claim ignorance of what blackface means, because it is not just an American phenomenon.

  5. Um, I’m an African and I’m black. I really have no idea why this is offensive. The people at UNICEF take their job seriously. It is not a stupid ad.

    Being offended by this as a black person is a little silly. First of all, the ads are calling attention to a SERIOUS problem. They are trying to get people’s attention, becuase using the old techniques of barren deserts and sad eyes does not work anymore. It caught your attention, didn’t it?

    Second, I think it’s actually saying something very important – African kids are the same as white kids, and deserve the same thing. They just have a different colour. And we do have a different colour, it’s a fact. If someone points this out, does this automatically make them racist?

    Finally, I have not heard any real arguments of why this is offensive really. From my little understanding of Blackface, it is does not look like this, and Blackface is not painted on with mud – I believe they use a different technique. So you cannot jump to the conclusion that this is what they were going for. UNICEF is not objectifying anybody, they’re trying to call attention to a serious problem.

    Actually, I think they did a really good job, becuase more people than they could have imagined have seen these ads, thanks to the ruckus.

    I’m generally baffled by people constituting their pride to their skin colour. I’m born with my skin colour, what gives me pride are my deeds and ability to communicate and participate in society.

  6. Pingback: Confessions of a Beirut Game » Blog Archive » And!

  7. goden-tag.
    je voudrais bien m’inscrir à “unicef” pour aider et travailler .je suis libre de toute fonction.
    denk-schon .
    unterchrift : m/assila.

  8. Sarah Osman, you must be mulatto, “colored” or “an ass-imilated negro” — from Africa?? Not just a color. People don’t live their lives just as a neutral color in the real world that is structured along racial lines. You really don’t get it. Oh wait. You’re color-blind! You can’t possibly get what it means to be black…much less to be “objectified.” What’s YOUR history, Sarah?

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