Thursday, April 14, 2016

The appropriation of black culture : Is it a big deal or nah?

By: Kwanda Ngwenya of Kwanda Ngwenya Says?    
Black culture, features and vernacular are suddenly flooding my social media accounts and almost every magazine's newsletter I've regrettably subscribed to. There has been a gradual appropriation of blackness but its suddenly become a trend a lot of celebrities and some fashion houses are rocking.

I understand that style is influenced by a variety of factors most designers will actually credit for the inspiration. I have ;however, noticed that other cultures will be credited for the role they played in the season's latest trend but rarely will black people be listed as one of the sources inspiration was drawn from. I am baffled by how the driving forces in popular culture will shamelessly plagiarize  black culture and then accept the praise that comes with having come up with new and innovative designs.

Louis Vuitton has appropriated the Masai tribe's traditional scarf material for its Spring/Summer 2012 men's line. The Masai were not paid for being an inspiration source that garnered the fashion house a lot of revenue, nor were Lesotho's  Basotho people, whose traditional blanket was also appropriated by the fashion house for its Fall 2012 men's collection.
image from wsj.com
A mosotho man in his traditional wear.

image fron ELLE.co.za
Louis Vuitton's Fall 2012 collection
These are two examples of black culture being appropriated, proving that it is not only African-American culture that gets copied, but African culture in general.
 Is this appropriation of black culture that big of a deal? Is it really worth all this fuss? Yes, it is an important issue. It is problematic when black people aren't recognized for their tremendous contribution to popular culture; for instance, the black people who come up with widely used words/terms like 'slay' or 'on fleek' and 'Snatch my edges/snatch my wig' aren't credited. The terms they come up with are not attributed to them, unlike that Damn Daniel guy who got his spot in the limelight for his creation.
It wouldn't be a big deal if cornrows weren't renamed 'boxer braids' and celebrated as the new 'it' hairstyle when worn on a Kardashian's head. Imagine how ridiculous I'd look if I started insisting that I have discovered the cow and renamed it a 'milkinator'. It would not be a big deal if black women were not called ghetto or trashy for wearing a centuries-old hairstyle a Kardashian gets praised for. Cornrow's have been worn as a protective hairstyle for ages, its not new nor is it suddenly cool when a non-black person starts wearing it.
Kim  and North West wearing the cornrows she suddenly calls 'boxer braids'
Jada Smith wearing the cornrows.  
Stop trying to erase black people's  tremendous input to popular culture and fashion. Credit and pay them for these interesting ideas and innovations that momentarily give the redundant fashion world a boost of originality and freshness.
P.S I happen to live in a country that has a plagiarist fashion designer who rips off Elie Saab's designs on a yearly basis. How can one be so unoriginal and shameless?

The images I used are not original images of mine.