Stealing from other cultures

2014-06-01 15:00

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

The idea of cultural appropriation is ­actually not that confusing. If you take a symbol, an element, a ritual from a ­culture that’s not yours and use it in a way that divorces it from its cultural ­context, chances are that it’s cultural ­appropriation.

And usually it’s a dominant group “borrowing” from a minority group. And usually to make money off them.

Recently online store Superbalist had a Xhosa initiation blanket (by ­Basotho Blankets) available for sale. The website claimed: “This initiation blanket is created especially for Xhosa ­initiations and other rites of passage ­according to African custom.”

Despite its ritual and cultural importance, Superbalist proudly sold the artefact as a product that is “perfect for use as a couch throw or to add a splash of colour and warmth to your living space”.

After some criticism, the online store renamed the blanket a traditional African blanket, which is just as bad because “Africa” is not a singular thing or culture.

Thanks to poor research, the blanket went from being significant to Xhosa ­initiation to every conceivable African thing. The item has since been removed from the store. It really should never have happened.

Another online store treading a thin line is Noush, which has cushion covers that borrow the prints and imagery of fabrics worn by sangomas and others made from Basotho blankets. Noush says of the Sangoma crocodile cushion cover: “The animals shown on the fabric all symbolise different qualities: strength, wisdom, pride?...?I LOVE the designs and find them extremely ­powerful.”

There is also a cushion bearing the ­image of a peacock with no explanation of what either crocodiles or peacocks ­actually symbolise.

Added to the covers is a ribbon the site describes as “a traditional Zulu ­ribbon that gets sewn on to traditional gear for weddings or other special occasions”. A bit of mixing of symbols to make a neat little cushion cover, but nothing about whether this particular ribbon is worn with the garments used.

Since we’re mixing it up, the ­Basotho Club and Skop cushion covers combine a grey Zulu blanket with aesthetic detail of the Basotho people’s blanket. ­Apparently both blankets are used for lobola, which apparently is “still very common” in South Africa. (“Still”, as in outmoded? Backwards, perhaps?)

Sure, the results are beautiful, but frankly, it’s offensive the way they ­simply take and amend the bits and ­pieces of the traditional attire of sangomas, initiates and traditional cultures that they want.

.?Visit superbalist.com and noush.co.za at your peril

Join the conversation!

24.com encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
0 comments
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24

 
/News

Book flights

Compare, Book, Fly

Traffic Alerts
Traffic
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.




Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.