Italy’s Minister for Foreign Affairs, Luigi Di Maio, has shared controversial photos of himself on social media, showing him Photoshopped onto the faces of Black actors, sports players, and white actors in Blackface.
Di Maio, who is a member of Italy’s governing Five Star Movement, sparked a wave of memes when a photo of him looking tanned emerged after he returned from holiday. Some of these memes feature Di Maio Photoshopped onto photos of prominent Black figures. In a post on Facebook, which has 6,900 shares, he jokes, “Guys… I promise I'll wear factor 50 suncream next summer. And thank you for making my day better.”
In one photo, the minister has been photoshopped over an iconic image of Chicago Bulls basketball player Michael Jordan, while another shows his face Photoshopped onto a photo from The Cosby Show, a TV series about an upper-middle-class Black family in New York. In the latter photo, Di Maio’s surname is edited to appear in the bottom right corner.
In another post, Di Maio’s face is edited into a poster for a German Netflix show called Dark, as well as a still from the 1961 Italian film Totòtruffa '62, which uses white actors in Blackface.
Di Maio’s comments are the latest in a long line of Italian politicians making racially insensitive remarks related to skin tone. In 2008, then Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi called Barack Obama, “young, handsome and tanned”.
The Five Star Movement, which came into power in Italy in 2018, regularly garners attention for its controversial views. Founded by blogger and comedian, Beppe Grillo and entrepreneur Gianroberto Casaleggio, it has links to anti-vax movements and is strongly anti-immigration.