The organisers of a student ‘Tribal Dance’ in Exeter have changed the title of their event after an Exeposé investigation. The title has now been changed to ‘The Temple of Dance.’
Organisers Good Life Exeter also altered potentially offensive elements of the description of their event on Facebook. Phrases such as ‘our tribal drums’ and ‘Tribal Jungle’ have been replaced; the latter replaced with ‘Disco Jungle’, and the former removed from the description altogether.
Exeposé contacted both Exeter Phoenix – where the event is taking place – Good Life Exeter to highlight concerns raised by members of Exeter’s Afro-Caribbean Society and other black students on campus.
Exeter Phoenix told Exeposé they had subsequently ‘strongly suggested that an alternative theme is found.’
Good Life later said in an email to Exeposé,
‘Our ethos behind this particular party was to create a setting where all are welcomed to dance together in a venue dressed as a fictional lost temple in the jungle. The use of ‘tribe’ here was made in reference to the sense of belonging and togetherness rather than relating to indigenous societies around the world.
‘We do understand the sensitivities regarding the subject and have since changed the title and altered the description of our event to better fit the idea we were aiming to encapsulate.
‘We would like to apologise on behalf of our company for any offence taken thus far.’
‘How can BME students feel comfortable in Exeter?’
The event – which promises ‘giant Tiki masks”‘and fire dancers – echoes similar events hosted for Exeter students in recent years that faced accusations of cultural appropriation, racism and harmful stereotyping. In 2012, the University’s annual charity ball came under similar fire.
The previous Facebook description for ‘The Tribal Dance’ described how “Musically, our tribal drum beats with everything from House to Hip Hop, Disco to Dancehall”. It now reads, ‘Musically, there will be everything from House to Hip Hop, Disco to Dancehall’
Another phrase read, ‘Join us as we transform the Phoenix into our Tribal Jungle!’. Now, it says, ‘Join us as we transform the Phoenix into a Disco Jungle!’
The cover image for the event on Facebook remains the same, with two black African masks.
Last year student organisers of a tribal-themed event at the Cavern decided to scrap the event after it was deemed ‘outright racist and inappropriate’ by other students.
The Student’s Guild told Devon Live at the time that it ‘does not permit tribal themed events to take place’. However, as Good Life Exeter are independent of the university, it seems this event will be given the go-ahead and attended by many of Exeter’s students.
Elizabeth Burrell, an ACS member at Exeter of Yoruba heritage, told Exeposé the event was ‘for middle class white kids to dress up and ‘play’ ethnic, then go home and giggle.’
‘It is clear that ‘tribal’ here is used as a euphemism for “barbarian”, “African”, or “black”. And quite frankly it’s appalling. How can BME students feel comfortable in Exeter, when organisations put on events that alienate them?’