A Response from Ksenia on Issues of Race and Representation

We received this today from Ksenia Parkhatskaya, in response to the online debates that ensued after she posted pictures of herself from a trip to Senegal. Her message:

3 days ago I posted a picture of me with tresses with the hast tag #africainme, which has lead to a large discussion online over a number of issues surrounding this. I have spent the past three days, reading, speaking to and hearing as wide a range of voices as I can on this subject, to try give as thoughtful and respectful a response as I can, on what I know is a highly sensitive issue. I have left it unedited so apologies if it is long. 

Under the video there is also a copy of the public apology I made in November 2013.

We include that text below the video here too.

The text of the public apology made in November 2013:

Seems there are two opinions about me: I don’t know the history or I’m making the mickey out of it/ try to offend the race. 

I do honor and admire African American folk culture. I am grateful to this people for they brought so much to the world. As many artists, I “borrow” from it and see it as a source of unlimited inspiration. I study jazz music, sing jazz and dance jazz.

Not claiming to have an the overall knowledge, though there are examples in history starting the beginning 19th when the minstrel shows were top popular, were showed in theatres, broadcasted, transmitted on the radio and were loved immensely and had millions in the audience. Though, history also shows that some pieces were seen by a part of society as an embarrassment despite its huge popularity. And I do see clearly now that in most societies blacking-up (reproduction or grotesque) or even if it’s something that can be approached as the one or interpreted as too close for comfort is unacceptable in any circumstances till being publicly condemned and called racist. And nowadays that applies vastly to the artists of all measures and art pieces in all spheres.

Peter, I heard you and Naomi well and understood what you have told me at Snowball about the make up of my pickpocket guy character. I never performed this dance with makeup ever again and did never blacked-up. Tena, as you correctly copied my letter, I wanted to show this number at ILHC with no blackface make up, because I was told that this is offensive.

4 women. For me it is comparable to painting a picture or making a sculpture, creating a theatrical piece to the topic. And I wanted my picture painted to this song to be whole, integral.

When some topic touches me I want to express it with the language I know the best - dance. Understanding that in African American culture that I honor and respect there are issues and problems I advice on my choices of artistic means to see if they can/will work. They aren’t always, unfortunately. 

I’m sorry if it was offensive to anybody, especially that I let my acts to be misunderstood or misinterpreted.