Protesters gathered outside stores belonging to a South Africa pharmacy chain on Monday after the company ran a shampoo advertisement by US hair care brand TRESemme that critics slammed as racist.
The ad labels the hair of two black women as "dry and damaged" and "frizzy and dull," while that of two white women is highlighted as "fine and flat" and "normal," local media reported.
The controversial ad campaign. Images: Twitter.
While the company, Clicks, has issued an apology, chief executive Vikesh Ramsunder noted that "the images and content were provided to us by our supplier TRESemme" which is owned by Unilever.
Hair is a sensitive issue in many parts of Africa. In South Africa several years ago, schoolgirls campaigned to be allowed to wear natural hair styles - like dreadlocks, afros and cornrows - at school.
The radical opposition party, the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), called for protests, writing on its Twitter feed: "We will not permit the unrepentant and perverse racism of Clicks to go on in South Africa. #clicksmustfall."
Local website TimesLive reported that one store had been petrol-bombed early in the morning, though only minimal damage was caused.
Footage on the EFF's social media feeds showed small groups of protesters - clad in the party's red berets - dancing and singing protest songs in several malls.
On Friday, after the furore about the ad started, Clicks issued an apology. "We have removed the images which go against everything we believe in. We do not condone racism and we are strong advocates of natural hair," it said.
In my view, the #Clicks case #BlackHairMatter,is a textbook case of unconscious bias. Calling it out is great but anarchy and violence undermine the cause. The best and most cerebral response I’ve seen so far is a video by young black women, among them my colleague @Diane_Gahiza— Prof Thuli Madonsela (@ThuliMadonsela3) September 7, 2020
South Africans on Twitter are using #BlackHairMatters to talk about the ad, with Stellenbosch University professor Thuli Madonsela tweeting "In my view, the #Clicks case #BlackHairMatters, is a textbook case of unconscious bias."
The EFF has targeted brands for advertisements it says are racist before. In 2018, it trashed H&M stores in South African malls after the Swedish company ran an ad in which a black child modelled a shirt saying "the coolest monkey in the jungle."