So the last time I wrote about American Apparel’s use of mock tribal prints and the name, “Afrika” for a line of clothing, it was a little bit controversial. Some folks didn’t understand why putting thin, white models, in faux tribal and animal prints with the title, “Afrika” was racist. So be it.
UPDATE: I think one of our commenters put the argument for why the use of “African” symbolism is problematic and racist best here.
For people who have not been exposed to critical race theory or the study of colonialism and cultural appropriation, the new Afrika line probably doesn’t look racist to you. The reason it doesn’t look racist to you is because the attractiveness of the line is meant to play on the unconscious attitudes that non-African westerners have about Africa. Here’s a set of association words:
I can go on, but you get the point.
Africa is a continent, not a country. If they called the line “Cameroon”, people would say “what”? Most Americans don’t know anything about africa, and probably couldn’t point out Cameroon on a blank map. “Tribal” is a loaded word, which I could write like ten pages about, especially in relation to the western perception of African societies.
I am choosing to put that quote in here and I think it applies to the below example as well.
This however, is just weird. I like fashion, I won’t lie. But I don’t even think these look good. Galliano states that his starting point was in fact African tribalism. But, I don’t even know where this is categorized. I wouldn’t necessarily say this is appropriation, but I do think it is offensive to make a “tribal figure” the heel of your shoe. Even more so, since it is supposed to represent fertility so the tribal figure is supposed to be an “African” woman. I guess it could also be seen as a play on voodoo. That is kind of wack no?