Mutli platinum selling artists Rihanna recently featured in latest ‘The Beauty’ Issue of Bazaars Harpers. Of an editorial of which she was laced with various looks, one that stood out was a Givenchy Spring Summer 2019 fringed dress worn by the Umnbrella Singer.
However, it did not stand out because of admiration, but it stood out to many folks in Africa who are fully aware there was a slight hint of cultural appropriation or cultural inspiration, however of whichever you believe it falls under. This dress is simply a modified edit of the Zengbeto dancers of the Yoruba culture of Togo and Benin.
Zangbeto are the traditional voodoo guardians of the night in the Yoruba religion of Benin and Togo which are known as the “Nightwatchmen”. Similar to Egunguns, they are highly revered and act as an unofficial police force patrolling the streets, watching over people and tracking down criminals and presenting them to the community to punish. Originally created to scare the enemy away, Zangbeto will wander around the streets to detect thieves and witches, and to provide law and order. – Wikipedia
It is true that there is nothing new under the sun, and we do not have enough evidence or proof to identify if Givenchy’s dress was appropriated or even inspired by the Zengbeto dancers, but common sense will always prevail.
Depsite the origins of the idea amongst the Givenchy camp, intellectual property is intellectual property and this is one belonging to the people of Togo and Benin. It was only last year Christian Louboutin won a key legal case in a long-running battle to protect its signature red soles from copycats. In 2012, Louboutin sued rival firm Van Haren for selling high heeled shoes with scarlet soles. And won the rights to protect it’s legal unique design in a case that took over 6 years despite having a trademark to red soles.
So the question that remains is, are Togolese and Benin chiefs of government in any right to sue Givenchy despite the origins of their creativity? Again, Africa is to face another blow in intellectual theft that will financially support the lives of foreigners.