APPROPRIATE

verb.
/əˈprəʊprɪeɪt/

1. Take something for one’s own use,
typically without the owner’s permission

For centuries a Western narrative was manufactured
of Africa that exoticized her cultures for an aesthetic
without heritage to benefit the white Westerner and
European in the form of asserting cultural
dominance and profit. The process in which this
narrative was realized and achieved consists of
structural and institutional methodologies that
served to erase, misrepresent and ultimately
condition a new generation of Africans to seek and
find solace in Western values instead of their own
ancestral beliefs. Through education a continued
European prevalence was reinforced by the exclusion
of native languages and historical literature on the
continent, with tribal figures often depicted as
primitive and unknowledgeable, grateful for the
education and structural developments that were
brought to them by whiteness. A more accurate
study of recent African history shows that not to be
the case, our history does not begin with slavery but
thriving, borderless African cities from Ethiopia to
Yoruba. Therein lies the folly of white savior
mentality - that in a modern society, any man,
woman or child who adorns the fabrics or ornaments
of a cultural kind is left behind or assimilates to the
virtues of said culture. The truth is, just like
Westerners see genius and hidden messages in
DaVinci’s paintings, Africans left their history and
ancestral knowledge in the aesthetic representative
of the heritage of their culture.

Heritage day in South Africa is the one calendar
day in the year where whiteness can play dress
up in African culture without bearing the
weight and politicization of blackness, all in the
name of Ubuntu and Rainbow Nation
ideologies. And for Africans? It’s the day we can
wear our Dashiki without black people asking
what the occasion is. For the remainder of the
year we toil and spat over our cultural
differences and call the Dashiki a Madiba shirt.
Thus, the appropriation of African culture can
be summed up to a sentiment that holds true for
both Whiteness and Blackness: acceptable when
accepted. The intimate outsider thinks its
appropriate when they see fit and we think its
appropriate when society sees it to be so. There
is a level of awkwardness behind that thinking:
as much as we wear our culture and love it we
couldn't possibly tell you what these ornaments
mean. Most of us simply don’t know anymore. It
has become an aesthetic without heritage.

“The meaning of indigenous jewelry, clothing
and sartorial expression has evolved over time,
sometimes beyond recognition, or it is
misrepresented. The original meanings and
symbolism are no longer known."

Apart from the structural erasure and
devaluation of the importance of culture from
African communities, there arises a prevailing
notion of culture as a fluid concept prone to,
like most things, evolution and change. It’s
ability to transcend time and racial lines by the
embodiment of core, and often unifying, human
values. Yet surprisingly it is considered to be
primitive in a modern age that has pioneered
manufactured obsolescence and individual
gratification as the evolution of industry while
culture and heritage seek self-actualization
through community as the basis of its evolution.
As the Zulu saying of Ubuntu goes: ‘Umuntu
ngumuntu ngabantu”

APPROPRIATE

APPROPRIATE (2018)

appropriate II