Can African-Americans Appropriate African Culture?

“Black America, please stop appropriating African clothing and tribal marks.

Yes, that means everyone at Afropunk too.

Thus began Zipporah Gene’s post on Medium detailing what she perceived to be cultural appropriation by African-Americans of African culture; namely dress. Ms. Gene was of the opinion that cultural dress and “tribal” marks were being worn and discarded as one would a costume when people wanted to seem trendy.

“You take a cultural dress, mark or trait, with all its religious and historical connotations, dilute it, and bring it out for occasions when you want to look ‘trendy’.”

The responses to both post and author were varied and at times extremely personal. Some agreed with her assertion; others asked if black people can appropriate from other black people as they were a stolen people. It all became a muddled mess so Team Afripop hit the streets of Johannesburg, South Africa to chat with folks on the street about how they felt about Gene’s scathing critique…

“Black Twitter is littered with countless examples of the uproar that ensues when White people appropriate Black culture…. but no one seems to realize that this selfsame violation is committed against us Africans — all under the guise of tribal fashion and connecting to The Motherland.”

The question was hardly simple – Do you think African-Americans can appropriate from African cultures? Meet Khensani, Desmore, Itai, Dillon, Shelley, and Keneiloe.

Watch and let us know what you think!

Video by Tseliso Monaheng



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