The Reality of Cultural Appropriation is Deliberate Dilution

Monday, July 20

By Basiiraa Moosa

Culture is based on customs and social behaviour of particular people, closely connected to cuisine, clothing, jewellery, body art, and superstitions. Cultural appropriation has watered-down the importance of culture, dismantling the fibres of bright and bold fashion to reinventing cultural dances for a ‘western’ audience.

Since the beginning of the 21st century, ‘modernisation’ has been an ongoing revolution. This involves borrowing aspects of minority cultures and integrating it into money-making industries, often misrepresenting the basis from which it was birthed. Seeking out ‘authentic’ food and being met with an adaptation of the original, wearing clothing related to the identity of a group of people, diluting the musical influence of cultures, all to create an aesthetic is the deliberate destruction of culture.

Strong bias suggests cultural appropriation is equivalent to cultural appreciation, however cherry-picking suitable elements of a culture to profit off of in relation to fully honouring  all aspects of the culture, indicates that cultural appropriation is not built on adoration. The hipster movement established in 1940 has appropriated aspects of many cultures, especially Native American fashion – despite desperately delivering ‘authenticity’ the movement has shown how a group of mostly white people could not find a culture belonging to them, and decided to reinvent themselves with aspects of other identities.

The fashion industry has borrowed aspects of cultural clothing, mocking at the originality by persuading buyers into supporting minority cultures, when in actuality the only support being offered is to the balance sheets of these fashion labels. English colonizers stole exotic Turkish, Indian and Persian style, cuisine and spices, traditions and even superstition. From tea and textiles, to entire cultural events, cultural misappropriation is broad and undeniable.

Softening the intensity, liveliness and meaning of age-old tradition and culture is a poor way of actively interpreting others. When a cultural experience is required, it should be raw and authentic, not diluted to individual aspects that can be controlled and reinvented. If you find yourself eager to appreciate and be culturally included, consider taking a moment to learn the history, richness and importance of what you may misinterpret, misrepresent and misappropriate.

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