Wednesday, November 3, 2010

"African" Inspired Clothing

Africa the monolith is a western construction.  There are 54 countries in Africa and according Wikipedia, there are an estimated 2000 languages spoken on the continent. These little acknowledged facts fail to stop designers from creating so-called African inspired clothing.  Celebrities have embraced these new fashions on the red carpet making it seem as though this is just another fashion trend, when in fact it is laced with colonialism, "othering," appropriation, and racism.   This is further problematized when you have White stars like Gwen Stefani going African.


Gwen is not cute in this dress, rather she symbolizes the damage that Whiteness has done on the African continent since it first set foot on it.  The appropriation of culture symbolizes the desire of Whiteness to control and dominate that which belongs to people of colour.  Appropriation is often seen as no big deal, even though POC have routinely said that this is disrespectful and hurtful.  Whiteness does not have a right to our various cultures.  There is a large difference between someone of the African diaspora wearing supposedly African inspired clothing and a White woman.  For us it symbolizes a lost connection that we can not ever mend but for Whiteness it just another example that they can take without considering how it impacts others.  

For Whiteness, African is something trendy and it need not consider that it represents real people, cultures, languages, food, ideas, families and love.   Just as when stars decide to throw on a headdress for no apparent reason, the wearing of supposedly African clothing renders our concerns and very existence invisible.  If Whiteness can represent Africans, or Africans of the disaspora, where does that leave people of colour?