Vogue Brazil style’s director Donata Meirelles has stepped down after photography from her 50th birthday party and dinner were criticized for their colonial references to slavery.
The furor began when an image, which has since been deleted, emerged on Instagram of Meirelles at her party in Salvador de Bahia, northeast Brazil, sitting on an ornate chair with black women in traditional dress flanking either side of her.
Critics compared the clothes to uniforms worn by slaves and pointed out the chair looked similar to chairs used by slave masters.
“The photo clearly and unfortunately refers to a Brazil of autocracy and slavery, where black people were serving and white people tended to,” wrote Instagram user Roberto Sakiyama.
“I don’t see any praise to Afro-Brazilian culture.”
In a statement to CNN, Vogue Brazil confirmed that Meirelles had resigned and her position of style director “will be extinguished, since it has been designed specifically to her.”
It wrote that during the seven years as style director, Meirelles “has been extremely important” to shaping “the magazine and (consolidating) Vogue Brazil as a major global force.”
“With her unique sense of style, which captures the dynamism and joie de vivre of the Brazilian woman as nobody else does, Donata gave new energy to the magazine. We understand and respect her resignation and will be eternally grateful for all the passion and talent she has dedicated to every page she has edited,” the statement said.
Television presenter Rita Batista explained the historical context behind why so many people were upset by the photography.
Batista posted a shot from the party next to an image of two 19th-century slaves flanking their owner, with a caption explaining how in those days “the slave herself was a luxury object to be shown publicly.”
Meirelles apologized amid the outcry, writing on Instagram that “it wasn’t a theme party.”
The former Vogue Brazil style director denied using any images associated with slavery “but if it looked otherwise, I’m sorry,” she said.
The magazine also apologized in an Instagram post, where it announced the creation of a permanent forum in which activists and scholars will help define content and images against inequality.
“Vogue Brazil apologizes profusely for what happened and hopes that the discussions generated have served as a learning opportunity,” it wrote.