MERCURY Prize-winning Edinburgh band Young Fathers have suffered a racist backlash after complaining that British art galleries are full of images of privileged white people.
The band, who won the prize in 2014, made the remarks in a video commissioned by the national portrait galleries in Edinburgh and London.
The Capital-based trio say at one point that those in the portraits are “a long line of inbred spawn, soon to die out themselves”.
The band then suffered vile racist abuse online including comments on band member Alloysius Massaquoi’s Facebook page where he was told to “go back to your mudhut-culture” and called an “anti-white racist”.
The video was commissioned as part of an exhibition on the theme of male image, identity and appearance from the 16th century to the present day with a selection of portraits from the National Galleries of Scotland and the National Portrait Gallery, London. The band were commenting on the fact that gallery walls are overwhelmingly filled with portraits of rich, privileged ruling classes of the past.
Bankole is seen shadow boxing in the National Portrait Gallery in Edinburgh and mimicking the poses in the fine oil paintings.
The four-minute film created a backlash from extremists who called it “anti-white” propaganda.
One commenter said: “This is racist. Whoever approved this video should be fired.”
The video was taken down following the racist abuse hurled at the band, prompting demands from best-selling author Irvine Welsh and others for a statement from the galleries explaining why.
The National Galleries of Scotland said it was reviewing the comments made about the video and it was possible they could be reported to police.
Young Fathers said in a statement: “Unfortunately, the meaning of the film has been purposefully misinterpreted by elements of the far right who have targeted the galleries and Young Fathers, saying the film is ‘anti-white’ when it’s clearly ‘anti-privilege’.
“It’s amazing that the National Portrait Gallery commissioned a film like this, that they would take a chance, and it’s a shame that it was hijacked by people with ulterior motives, to create hatred and division amongst us.”
They added: “This film challenges the fact that the walls of the gallery overwhelmingly present the rich, privileged, ruling classes of the past. Where are the ‘ordinary’ people? Why are lords and ladies more important than firemen and women, than school teachers or doctors?
“In the film, the protagonist affirms his own worth, as a living man against the dead aristocracy in the pictures he’s looking at.”
The video was uploaded again with the band’s permission.
They said that currently they do not intend to report the online abuse to police, as they believe it highlights the racism and privilege issues they were addressing in the film.