A young Australian woman has been forced to defend herself after photos of her African-themed 21st birthday sparked global outrage and accusations of racism from US media.
Olivia Mahon posted photos from her party on Facebook on September 11, showing guests dressed up as people from the African continent, complete with “blackface” makeup, animal print and curly black wigs.
The images also show a guest dressed as a hooded Klu Klux Klan member, another in an elephant costume and one clad in a gorilla outfit.
The photos were soon posted on the Tumblr site Black in Asia, with the site owner claiming that, “The girl posted the pictures proudly and flatly refused to take them down when confronted by another individual about how they were racist.”
“In case you ever wanted to know how white folks saw us black Africans… here you go,” they said.
Were you at the party, do you know more or have photos or video? Let us know by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org
Ms Mahon responded to the criticism in a Tumblr post that has since been deleted, along with her Facebook and other social media profiles.
In her retort, Ms Mahon said she threw the African themed party because she always wanted to go to Africa to teach English.
“In no way was this party intended to hurt anyone’s feelings or upset anyone at all,” she wrote.
“I was dressed up as Cleopatra while the majority of my guests came as animals that can be found in Africa or wore traditional African clothes or even dressed up as famous people who came from Africa.”
Ms Mahon said it was meant to be a celebration of Africa and pointed out that one Mauritian friend painted himself white for the event, saying “but that photo didn’t make it to this page [on tumblr].”
She also said that she had not been asked to remove the photos and would have done so if she was.
“I am sorry for those I have offended and the photos have no been removed,” she said.
Ms Mahon said she is going to teach English in Cambodia for two months in January but still hopes to do the same in Africa.
Meanwhile, Ms Mahon's birthday photos have gone on to make headlines on international sites, with Buzzfeed panning them as “incredible offensive,” Huffington Post lampooning her for calling Africa a country instead of a continent, and Jezebel describing the event as “revolting and offensive”.
“Dressing up in cheetah skin and beads in order to look ‘African’ reduces an entire continent — which contains 54 countries, including Arabic-speaking countries like Morocco, Egypt and Libya — to a horrible stereotype of a ‘native’,” Jezebel writer Dodai Stewart wrote.
Huffington Post said simply: "This latest party making headlines is yet another example of what not to do when hosting a party."