In this period when the debate about cultural appropriation is in full swing, we thought that it’d be important to address this concern, as we’re witnessing more and more cultural appropriation regarding the Amazigh culture, when it comes to our traditional tattoos, clothing, jewellery, etc.
The Amazigh culture wasn’t spared unfortunately, so we would like to rise awareness and educate people on that matter to explain what cultural appropriation is, what’s the difference with cultural appreciation, what the consequences could be, as well as how to avoid it yourself when in contact with another culture?
Some definitions by Kelsey Holmes from Greenheart Travel:
Cultural appropriation: “taking one aspect of a culture that is not your own and using it for your own personal interest.”
Cultural appreciation: “when someone seeks to understand and learn about another culture in an effort to broaden their perspective and connect with others cross-culturally.”
To put it simply, cultural appropriation is when you get an object/jewelry/clothing/symbol (etc.) belonging to another culture, which usually has a cultural significance, and you use it for your own benefit, fame, and/or profit without giving any credit to that culture the item or symbol belongs to. This form of cultural disrespect keeps happening because clear laws simply don’t exist. Disrespect also because the cultures whose ancestors suffered under colonial rules to preserve what was left of their identity for the future generations.
“Taking a part of another culture without understanding what it truly means can be harmful to those whose culture you are using but also to those with whom you share it” because you trivialize it and encourage others to do the same. Holmes states that “using symbols/objects of another culture without knowledge and understanding can lead to […] negative cultural stereotyping”. I’d also add that it can also threatens the integrity of a culture (usually an oppressed and/or exploited cultures) that struggles to survive and preserve its heritage.
How to avoid appropriating and learn to appreciate: remember that it’s all about respect and context. Just engage a little introspection and ask yourself if you understand the significant of the cultural aspect you’re using? Are you doing this to learn about a culture or to perpetuate stereotypes? Are you using a culture’s aesthetic to honour that culture or for your personal benefit? And “would [you] be offended if someone wore an important religious symbol from [your] culture without understanding what it truly means?
We hope this could help you enlighten you on the subject, understanding the difference between cultural appropriation and cultural appreciation, as well as making the right choices when it comes to using aspects of another culture.
Be respectful and considerate.
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