What Is Cultural Appropriation and How Can You Avoid It?
As our world becomes increasingly interconnected, it’s more important than ever to be aware of the potential for cultural appropriation and to avoid it. While there is much to celebrate and embrace from countries and cultures around the world, it’s important that it is done with a few key factors in mind. In this blog post, we’ll be discussing what cultural appropriation is, examples of what it can look like, and how to avoid it.
Ade + Ayo and Cultural Appropriation Concerns
Ade + Ayo was created to make beautiful African design more accessible to children. We hope to spark curiosity, love and respect for the people and cultures that inspire our products. From our perspective, it’s not cultural appropriation for children and families who are not African or of African descent to wear our products. Cultural appropriation is a valid concern and there are two key factors I consider:
(1) who benefits from the exchange
and (2) what happens after the exchange?
First, I (Temidayo, Owner and Founder) am Nigerian and I work with other African artisans and designers, which means Ade + Ayo pieces are created from African cultural perspectives. So, when you purchase from Ade + Ayo, African creatives directly benefit. Second, when you receive your Ade + Ayo pieces, it’s important that your family interacts with these items from a place of celebration and respect for the cultures and people from whom they originate. So, you certainly don’t have to be of African descent to bring Ade + Ayo into your home. In fact, we love to see everyone wearing and interacting with our products! I’m so grateful for your support.
What is cultural appropriation and why should we avoid it?
Cultural appropriation occurs when a person from one culture adopts elements of another culture without understanding the meaning or history behind them. This can often happen when people from majority cultures appropriated disparate traditions from minority cultures. For example, someone might wear a Native American headdress to a Halloween party without realizing that this item is sacred to many Indigenous peoples. Or they might use a Chinese symbol as a tattoo without knowing that it carries negative connotations. Such appropriation can be hurtful and disrespectful, and it can perpetuate harmful stereotypes. Additionally, it can lead to cultural misappropriation, which is when people from one culture adopt elements of another culture and claim it as their own. For example, a white musician might appropriate music from an African American artist and claim it as their own work, as this has unfortunately happened time and time again throughout history.
How can we tell if an action or item is culturally appropriative?
You might know the feeling: you see someone wearing something from another culture and you love it, but you're not sure if it's appropriative. Is it cultural appropriation if you wear a sari to your friend's wedding? What about if you get a henna tattoo on vacation? The answer is, it depends. To determine whether an action or item is appropriative, you must first consider the intent behind it. If the person is wearing the item or participating in the action as a way to honor and celebrate the culture, then it is probably not appropriative. However, if the person is doing so for fashion or entertainment purposes, then it might be appropriative. Additionally, we must consider the power dynamic between the cultures involved. If the person wearing the item or participating in the action comes from a position of privilege in relation to the other culture, then it is more likely to be appropriative. Ultimately, the best way to avoid cultural appropriation is to educate yourself about other cultures and to be respectful of their traditions.
What are some examples of cultural appropriation?
Cultural appropriation is the act of taking elements of a culture that is not your own and using them for your own purposes. Often, this is done without any understanding or respect for the culture from which they originate. For many people, cultural appropriation is a huge problem because it can lead to the devaluation and mistreatment of other cultures.
Some common examples of cultural appropriation include wearing traditional Native American clothing without any knowledge of the history or meaning behind it, using African spiritual practices without respect for their religious significance, or using Japanese symbols and images without understanding their cultural context. In each of these cases, the appropriator is taking something from a culture that they do not understand and using it in a way that is often harmful to members of that culture.
Cultural appropriation can be a difficult issue to navigate because it is often unintentional. However, it is important to be aware of the potential impact of our actions on others. If we want to show respect for other cultures, we must take the time to learn about them and avoid appropriating their traditions in a way that undermines their importance.
Why is cultural appropriation harmful?
While cultural appropriation can sometimes be well-intentioned, it often leads to negative consequences. For instance, people who appropriate other cultures often do so without any understanding or respect for the tradition they are borrowing from. This can lead to the misuse or misrepresentation of important cultural symbols and practices. In addition, cultural appropriation often results in the erasure of distinct cultural identities. When people appropriate elements of another culture without permission, they are effectively taking that culture away from its rightful owners. This can leave people feeling disconnected from their own heritage and roots.
Ultimately, cultural appropriation is harmful because it perpetuates racism and prejudice. By appropriating another culture, people are effectively saying that that culture is not good enough on its own – that it needs to be “improved” or “fixed” by borrowing from elsewhere. This attitude reinforces harmful stereotypes and discriminatory attitudes towards members of that culture. So next time you’re tempted to try out someone else’s culture, ask yourself if you’re doing so out of respect or ignorance. Chances are, if you’re not sure, it’s probably the latter.
How can we avoid perpetuating cultural appropriation in our own lives and the lives of others?
If you’re still reading, we’re confident that the last thing you’d ever want is to contribute to the devaluation of cultural traditions and the erasure of cultural identities. So how can we avoid perpetuating cultural appropriation in our own lives and the lives of others? One way is to be aware of your own cultural biases and privileges. Another way is to learn about and respect the cultures of others. When in doubt, ask instead of assume. And always be willing to listen when someone from a different culture speaks up about their experiences with appropriation. By making these simple changes, we can help create a more culturally inclusive world for everyone.
Cultural appropriation is a serious issue that should be avoided whenever possible. By educating ourselves on what it is and why it’s harmful, we can work to stop appropriating other cultures in our own lives and the lives of others. We provide detailed descriptions for each of our African designs, and we hope that you'll take the time to read about them and celebrate their meaning with us!