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Finnish firm to drop black caricatures on its chocolate 'Kisses'

An anti-racism activist compared the image to the n-word. 

Brunbergin uusi suukkopakkaus.
Image: Brunberg

Finnish chocolate maker Brunberg has announced it is changing the packaging on its chocolate-covered Kisses, removing stereotypical images of two seemingly African figures kissing, one with a drum slung over his shoulder.

Brunberg said it is replacing the image with an illustration of the skyline of the picturesque old town of Porvoo, the quiet southern city in which the sweets firm was founded in 1871.

The firm said it wanted to complete the redesign by the time it turns 150 years old next year.

"A packaging redesign for such a traditional product range, which is already known to several generations, has to be done with care and consideration," said Brunberg CEO Katarina Enholm in a statement.

In 2007, another Finnish confectioner, Fazer, announced plans to retire one product’s controversial mascot, which featured a black figure with outsized red lips and cornrows similar to the blackface images that are now widely denounced as racist.

"Comparable to n word"

At the time the company cited Finland’s increasingly diverse society and the product's viability on the international market as reasons for the packaging update.

Brunberg's move was welcomed by cultural sensitivity and anti-racism expert Sophia Wekesa of the Brown Girls collective.

"You can compare the images to the n-word," Wekesa told Yle News. "Although it’s been normalised in our society, in that people say they've been used forever, but they've always been made by white people."

Story continues after photo

Finnish chocolate maker Brunberg said it plans to discontinue the use of its caricature artwork on its chocolate-covered 'Kisses.' Image: Yle/Mikael Kokkola

"These are traditional images from the beginning of the colonisation of blackness when it was represented as something naive, especially because there are drums and everything. [The idea] is that black people are represented as happy but not that intelligent, not as actual people.”

The company launched its popular crème-filled chocolates in 1951 as "Negro Kisses", changing the name of the candies to "Brunberg's Kisses" in 2001.

Wekesa, who grew up black in Finland, says it was an unavoidable part of her childhood.

“I tried to ignore it and not think of it,” said Wekesa. “Then later I tried to think about this but there are no words to describe it, especially as there is sexualisation there as well with the kiss. That was a moment when I would have wished some adult would have said that it's not okay and you're allowed to feel negative emotions about this."

The updates will be made on the candy's large boxes that hold 25 individually-wrapped pieces of the confection. The caricatures do not appear on smaller packages.

Brunberg said the changes to the packaging would be complete by this summer.

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