On the drive to Sun City from Johannesburg, you usually have to stop at this one flea market on the way. It’s very hard to miss, and it’s definitely a huge tourist trap. For a long stretch of road, there’s African clothing markets, trinket shops, restaurants and fruit stalls on the side of the road, and when I went a few weeks ago with my family and saw the beaded Zulu necklaces, I was glad to finally find a place where I could get one!
I was so excited about getting the Zulu necklace, but then I got to thinking about whether or not I actually should, because it’s not actually my culture. Cultural appropriation is always a tricky topic of discussion when it comes to fashion, because I may have a Zulu friend who is okay with me wearing the necklace or an Indian friend who is cool with me donning a Bindi, yet on principle, it’s still not okay.
I love fashion and cultures, so cultural appropriation is a really huge dilemma for me, but here is the thought process that I usually go through when I’m struggling to discern whether or not I should wear something.
Do not wear something if:
- You don’t know the culture from where the item comes.
- You don’t know why they wear it. For example, some bindis are used for aesthetic purposes, or to signify the sixth chakra/third eye, but others can also signify if a woman is married or not.
- You’re wearing it ironically or to mock that culture.
- You’re wearing it to pretend to be from that culture to fit in. For example, if you’re a white girl who has only black friends who wear braids, you don’t have to get braids too just so you can fit in.
- You’re going to pretend that you started a ‘trend’. Someone else’s culture isn’t a trend that’s ‘in’ for the moment.
- Someone from that culture tells you it’s offensive. If they tell you to take it off because it offends them and their religion/culture, you should probably listen, especially if you were only wearing it for the sake of fashion.
So, if you genuinely appreciate a culture, know that by wearing it, you’re not offending people of that culture, and you look good in it 😉 – go for it! It’s amazing that in South Africa, we can be so multicultural and diverse. I love seeing people wear ankara and geles from my home country of Nigeria. Let’s appreciate & not appropriate! 😀
For this post, I used my BBB tutorial for help. I had my Janet Jackson in Poetic Justice going on, if maybe just a liiiittle too high.