Lewes bonfire ‘blacking up’ not racist, says Zulu performer

A row over whether revellers who “black up” for Saturday’s bonfire parade in Lewes are racist has taken a twist after the leader of a Zulu dance troupe booked to appear alongside them said the practice was not offensive.

Rival factions in the East Sussex town have mounted petitions for and against white members of one of its seven historic bonfire societies parading in versions of Zulu dress and painting their faces black.

But Thandanani Gumede, 32, a Zulu from Durban, South Africa, whose West Yorkshire-based song and dance troop Zulu Tradition will perform in Lewes, said while the issue was sensitive, the costumes and makeup were “not derogatory”.