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Sunday, July 21, 2024

African Writer Accuses African Americans of Appropriating African Culture to Look “Trendy”

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In a piece that she admits might be “petty” African Londoner Zipporah Gene calls out African Americans who appropriate African culture.

…Black Twitter is littered with countless examples of the uproar that ensues when White people appropriate Black culture. Words such as fancy dress, mockery and profiteering are thrown around quite freely, but no one seems to realize that this selfsame violation is committed against us Africans?—?all under the guise of tribal fashion and connecting to The Motherland.

Yes, I know that African-inspired prints are poppin’ right now and many African designers have chosen to showcase certain styles to the global fashion scene, but it appears to me and my African friends that it’s been taken a step further. I understand that, for the most part, many of my own Black American friends are well meaning when they talk about African fashion, but the end result is still the same:

You take a cultural dress, mark or trait, with all its religious and historical connotations, dilute it, and bring it out for occasions when you want to look ‘trendy’.

Ask yourself, how exactly is that any better?

I’m not trying to start a war, but I would just like you all to realize the hypocrisy of seeing someone wearing a Fulani septum ring, rocking a djellaba, painted with Yoruba-like tribal marks, all the while claiming that this is meant to be respectful. It’s a hodgepodge, a juxtaposition, a right mess of regional, ethnic and cultural customs and it screams ignorance and cultural insensitivity.

Yes, that’s right, even when worn by Black people.

I know it looks cool and the wearer looks unique, but if you look at it for what it is, it’s still cultural appropriation.

The points she makes are valid. Black folks can certainly appropriate. We can mindlessly throw on patterned fabrics and paint our faces. Many thinkpieces have been written on how misguided the origins of Kwanzaa are.

But to say that the end goal of this is simple trendiness — that is where I strongly disagree. It’s not a trend, but a desire to reconnect. And I don’t think we can pretend that there aren’t traces of Africa all up and through the diaspora. The traditional Ethiopian head whipping Shoa Oromo dance is similar to the Jamaican ‘dutty whine‘ as well as African American sorority strolls. The Mbalantu hair-growth tradition of applying tree bark echoes the use of mud washes and essential oils in the natural hair community. The Fulani practice of septum piercings is also used as body adornment by black women in America. 

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