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Russian Fashion Editor Apologizes for Offensive 'Black Woman Chair' Photo Released on MLK Day

( [email protected] ) Jan 24, 2014 09:40 AM EST

Controversial picture of woman sitting on a black woman as a chair
Dasha Zhukova, a Russian socialite, art collector, and fellow editor of Garage, posing on a chair designed by Norwegian artist, Bjarne Melgaard.

Miroslava Duma, Russian Fashion Editor of Buro 247, recently ate a mouthful of humble pie after posting a controversial picture of Dasha Zhukova, a Russian socialite, art collector, and fellow editor of Garage, posing on a chair designed by Norwegian artist, Bjarne Melgaard.  

"The art and fashion industries are the few bastions of society where blatant racism and ignorance are given the greenlight in the name of creativity" stated Claire Sulmers, Editor of FashionBombDaily.com, to Huffington Post.  

Duma received a large backlash from her Instagram followers after posting the photo and shortly thereafter, issued an apology saying, "We love, respect and look up to people regardless of their race, gender or social status." She goes on to say, "The chair in the photo should only be seen as a piece of art which was created by British Pop-Artist Allen Jones, and not as any form of racial discrimination. In our eyes, everyone is equal."

Miroslava Duma's Instagram Apology
(Miroslava Duma's Instagram)

The photo remains on her website, but most of the chair has been cropped out. It has been completely deleted from her Instragram account.

The timing of the photo could not have been released at a worst time: Martin Luther King Jr. Day. This added to the racial tension of the picture that many felt. It features a black woman wearing in black leather hot pants lying on her back, with legs pressed to her breasts, and go-go boot-clad feet in the air functioning as a back to the chair. A large black leather cushion rests on the underside of the woman's thighs and black leather belts strapping the cushion to the woman top it off. The chair itself is part of a larger, equally controversial collection.

"The message: white dominance and superiority, articulated in a seemingly serene yet overtly degrading way" is how Sulmers sees this and adds that it displays "black women as objects."

This incident is also reminiscent of the black face-themed photo shoots still seen in several  European fashion magazines such as a recent Metal Magazine shoot, the "African Queen" shoot for Numéro Magazine, and others.

Black face-themed photo shoots
Black face-themed photo shoots still seen in several European fashion magazines
“African Queen” shoot for Numéro Magazine
“African Queen” shoot for Numéro Magazine

The photo was also not received well because, in addition to those those were offended by the image of a rich white woman seated on a black woman, there were others who were offended by what they deem as the objectification of women.

Forniphilia, a term initially coined by Jeff Gord, describes "a form of bondage and sexual objectification in which a person's body is incorporated into a chair, table, cabinet or other piece of furniture."

Marie Claire's stance is "Even if the skintone was different, the photograph would still be offensive. Women seem to be the brunt of society, and no one deserves to be sat on, whether it is for art's sake or not."

This bondage collection has a history of offending women. The caucasian version of Chair by Allen Jones was damaged by angry feminist campaigners in 1986 who attacked the piece with paint stripper. It is now part of Art Under Attack: Histories of British Iconoclasm at Tate Britain.