“Cultural appropriation” is defined as the adoption or use of elements of one culture by members of another culture. Summer in America means ‘festival season’ and this includes The Coachella Valley Arts and Music Festival held each year in the the Coachella Valley in the Colorado Desert. With festival season comes a whole lot of cultural appropriation and each year festival goers are decked out in faux leather, war paint, Native American Headdresses, Bindi’s and Kimonos just to name a few.
One of the most popular ‘fashions’ and biggest acts of cultural appropriation at Coachella is the Native American Headdress.
Traditionally the Native Headdress is a very important part of the Native American Culture, typically made of beautiful bird feathers, it is more symbolic than anything else, but not anyone within the tribe could wear the headdress. It was reserved for the most powerful, well respected and influential member of the tribe. Each time this member of the tribe committed a brave act, a feather was added to the headdress. This meant that the more feathers on the headdress the more powerful the wearer. Non-native wearers seem to be unaware of the headdresses heritage and the offense it causes to Natives when they are worn.
Jessica R. Metcalfe, creator of Native American blog and boutique Beyond Buckskin stated “The headdress is a sacred, important symbol to us. And it’s still a tradition that is practiced in our communities… Whenever you have celebrities or major companies misusing the sacred headdress, that is a direct way of destroying our culture.”
Another example of cultural appropriation at Coachella would be the wearing of the Bindi. #reclaimthebindi is a campaign started by anonymous women aiming to educate, empower and create culture appreciation. The campaign was started coincidentally at the same time as festival season started and Hindu and South Asian women posted selfies online using the hashtag #reclaimthebindi to fight back against the cultural appropriation and show the world that their culture is more than just a fashion statement.
The Bindi since ancient times has been the visually fascinating in all form of body decoration in India. The word Bindi is derived from the Sanskrit word ‘Bindu’ and suggests the mystic third eye of a person. The Bindi was originally a insignia of a married woman and today many Hindi women wear a Bindi because of its origins based on Indian mythology.
The positioning of the Bindi alone is significant, the area between the eyebrows is said to be the seat of latent wisdom. Traditionally the Bindi is a red dot but can feature jewels. These are the types of Bindi’s worn by many celebrities such as Vanessa Hudgens and Selena Gomez, both of these celebrities stirred up controversy after wearing the Bindi.
Overall I feel that cultural appropriation is a negative thing, these traditions and culture are sacred and in cases such as The Coachella Music Festival, the non-native wearers of these cultural ‘fashions’ are simply wearing them for the fashion statement.
So what are your thoughts on cultural appropriation? Is it okay? Should Coachella and other music festivals put a dress code in place to prevent cultural appropriation?