So earlier today, I came across a post “Black America, please stop appropriating African clothing and tribal marks.” On sight of the title, I thought how backwards is this. I thought maybe the editor would have dressed up the content to make sense of it, but the content was just as trashy as the title.
As an African in Africa, unlike Zipporah Gene, the lady who wrote article, there is not one African in our country who resents other nations adopting our culture and anyone who has visited will know this. In fact, it is what African people have waited for for a very long time. I myself growing up in Africa watching American movies, seeing german cars, listening to African American songs, this is a proud moment and time where our culture is becoming the norm, and it is overwhelming.
For the first time in a long time, African movies, music and fashion are soaring. I can go on youtube and see a song by Wizkid has more hits than that of a mainstream American artist. That almost every Western country has a successful African Fashion Week. Artists are profiting, tailors are benefiting, and more. Everytime we go to do a delivery for an order on our website, we feel good to see other Ghanaians sending bulks of clothes abroad.
So only an inconsiderate, non appreciative African, who doesn’t live in Africa, like the editor of thsppl.com will write such a divisive despicable article. And do believe she doesn’t represent 0.001% of Africans.
Her article is centered around the fact that African Americans are disturbed when Europeans misappropriate African fashion, so she is disturbed when they adopt African fashion. If I couldn’t pick out a dumber point than this don’t blame me. Especially considering the sensitive relationship between African Americans and Africa.
First and foremost, Africa/Africans do not have a patent on prints, it is only African fashion based on the fact we wear it the most. We are not the main manufacturers of print, nor the originators. In fact print is high street fashion in Africa, and majority of our designer brands are not so much covered with print as you can see on the runway shows we cover around Africa. I am all for whoever wants to adopt African fashion in anyway, even if muslims begin using prints or whatsoever in their style. So be it.
African fashion, however, has been a mix of various influences from various outside contributions. The long gowns that men wear which takes influences from the muslim and arab world, the print textiles which were influences from Asia, and some western styles. All mixed with our own native culture, which by the way is different in every country. In fact let’s not forget the native Americans also had similar styles and tribal face paint similar to that of Africans.
Here is an explanation to her confusion regarding the world Dashiki. Dashiki is simply a style of a top, like an overall or gown. However, most African Americans wore dashikis with the Angelina print on it, eventually it became the norm to call the Angelina pattern dashiki. Which meant even a dress with angelina print eventually adopted the name Dashiki. If that disturbs her, then she should know not one dashiki fabric is manufactured in Africa, but either in China or Holland. So much for having the right to tell others who can wear it when you can tell those who can make it.
Never the less, her article was met with a reply that seemed to have received the most support, which we approve and have published below. The bottom line is, if someone is not bothering you, leave them be. The last thing African fashionistas needs is someone we didn’t hire acting as a mouth piece. Anyways, enjoy the reply from another party below…….[accordion title=”” active_index=”2″] [accordion_item title=”Article On ThsPPL.com by Zipporah Gene”] For the life of me, I need to know:
Can Black people culturally appropriate one other?
It’s a nuanced question that seems to either set tempers aflare or create vacuums of silence in a room but, after going through pictures taken at the latest Afropunk Festival, it’s definitely one that I have to ask.
And if Blacks can, why is the disgust and uproar surrounding this ongoing phenomenon only reserved for instances when White people appropriate us?
I ask this because 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.
It’s basically like a White Australian guy with dreadlocks, Ta moko, wearing Batik. They are all Islanders after all. So he’s not being offensive, right?
Africans may not be as vocal as Americans when it comes to appropriation rights. And I get that Black America’s history is one marred with so many injustices that I would never claim to understand. The emergence of a unified voice that is strong and proud is one that I respect and continue to applaud, but please also understand the need for us to be heard, too. Please don’t trample our rights fighting for yours.
On the scale of global issues, I admit this is petty, but it is something that should still be addressed.
It won’t be long before Zara starts selling tribal face paints. They already sold dashiki-styled prints, so why not?
It’s time we all took a break and thought about what it is we’re wearing.
We are in an age of discourse and discussion in which Black people from all around the world can get together and discuss issues that matter to us. A phenomena that has by and large been created thanks to Black America. I don’t mince my words when I say that you’ve paved the way for intelligent discussion on things that shouldn’t have ever been but the world has taken as norms.
So now I am highlighting this: If you’re not from an African tribe, please leave off wearing the tribal marks. Otherwise you’re participating in the very thing you vehemently speak out against.
I know the irony and how weird this sounds, because of the influence of rap, jazz, and hip hop — Black American culture, around the world. Thanks, but I’ve heard that argument ad nauseum.
My response to that is:
If it’s done to you, is it then okay to do it to me?
If you don’t dress like that everyday, or have any REAL affiliation, then please tell me how it isn’t fancy dress?
I stand by my words.
I’m sorry, it’s not futuristic, or cool — it’s our culture.
Sure we may not wear Ichafus on a day-to-day basis anymore, but that doesn’t mean their significance to us is lessened. These things are reserved for funerals, births, weddings . . . significant rites of passage — vital points in our lives that we share with our community and people. It is how we express ourselves in the collective.
[/accordion_item] [accordion_item title=”Bankole Johnson’s Comment Reply”] Bankole Johnson – As a Yoruba Nigerian born and raised in Lagos, I think, like a friend of mine said, the more important thing in this situation will be “to use this moment, or trend as you called it, as a platform to educate African Americans about the garments and the markings and stop being petty [like you alluded to in your article].” I don’t see anything wrong with people adopting aspects of other people’s culture (in this case, African Americans are not necessarily other people. In many ways, they are Africans just like you. They just got “shipped out” centuries ago but I digress) as long as they give credit, don’t relabel it or claim it as theirs.
I say use this opportunity to teach them the names of the fabrics like Ankara fabric, Kente fabric, Aso Oke fabric, George fabric, etc. Let them know what they are wearing rather than watch them call it wrong names like Dashiki. That’s what I do to my friends. I correct them when I can and they tend to appreciate it. For me, I love the adopting of any aspect of my culture by anyone. I just want you to know the correct names and not claim it’s yours.
If you want to tell African Americans (your fellow brothers and sisters. I am digressing again :)) to stop wearing our fabrics, then you should tell us (Africans) to stop wearing Western wears like jeans, pin-stripe suits, etc because those are not ours either. We adopted or started wearing them on the advent of Western colonization of our lands.
As an African who has a better understanding of both sides of the coin than I did years ago, I think your article slightly comes from the place of we, Africans, feeling like if we can come to America or Western world and succeed (which is very relative), then African Americans need to shut up and stop protesting injustices or issues affecting them. Hence, in this case, you feel like you have a “legitimate” reason to supposedly expose their hypocrisy. African Americans have all the right to protest even while making sure they do their best and succeed. Many of the African leaders who fought for our African freedom from colonization were actually influenced by the protests of African Americans during the civil rights era but I am digressing again.
Overall, I always wish Africans and African Americans would unite in many ways but we (on both sides) seem to always create a reason (like this article) to separate both sides from each other even further. That is what this article does. smh
*Written in a hurry, so forgive any spelling or grammatical errors* 🙂
PS: Article Picture is from google and not that of Zipporah Gene
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