In recent days, there have been countless talks of the cultural appropriation of jewelry, especially on social media, and for someone who appreciates the beauty of jewelry and doesn’t see anything more than the beauty that this kind of jewelry offers, talks of cultural appropriation make no sense at all.
However, it is important to understand that cultural appropriation is indeed a real thing; many people feel wronged by how others handle their jewelry, regardless of the origin of the jewelry. But you may be wondering what cultural appropriation is and how can I avoid it.
We’ll share answers to what it all means, so keep reading.
Cultural appropriation definition
Cultural appropriation can be defined as the customs, traditions, beliefs, and also practices that are believed to ‘belong’ to a specific racial, ethnic, or even religious group.
Essentially, the primary elements of cultures involve clothing, art, music, language, literature, social norms/values/customs, religions, history, governments, and holidays.
So, being appropriate means taking that cultural element without permission. And cultural appropriation happens when one (another) culture practically borrows any or some of the cultural elements of the culture in question, without permission and without crediting the culture’s source.
On the other hand, cultural appreciation is when people understand and are interested in the different elements of the culture in question, not just the fact that the cultural pieces look beautiful, lucrative, and beneficial.
So, if you don’t want to misuse any other cultural elements, and you wish to seek permission or give credit to the source or the creator of the pieces in question, then you wouldn’t be appropriating that cultural thing.
Jewelry cultural appropriation Examples
1. Art like Henna, for example, was initially meant to offer cooling to ladies’ hands and feet in hot climates. It was also considered something that played an important role in weddings and other traditional ceremonies.
The traditional designs of the henna art represented love, prosperity, and health in the Muslim, Sikh, and Hindu weddings. Today, this has changed, and pretty much everyone wears henna art, albeit for non-traditional reasons.
Many fail to recognize the importance and the traditional meaning of henna art, and in such cases, the art is appropriated rather than appreciated.
2. Other than henna art, there are many other things that are often appropriated, including:
3. Wearing a bindi as a trend
4. Burning or smudging white sage as a non-indigenous person
5. Mocking or adopting a fake accent
6. Presentation of yoga as a practice preferred by white women for wellness
7. Buying inaccurate art knockoffs and cultural designs such as the ‘tribal’ designs for clothing or the Navajo-inspired blankets
8. Wearing evil eye bracelets made of plastic without appreciating their meaning, and also buying evil-eye-themed pillow cases, door mats, rugs, etc.
9. Taking and sharing photos of sacred and private traditions all across social media without asking for permission to post them.
10. Today, several other forms of cultural appropriation have been considered, including the popular Renegade dance, Adele in Bantu knots, Kendall’s tequila brand 818, JK Rowlings’ erasure, stereotyping, and the appropriation of different American beliefs, and even the movie La La Land, among others.
How to avoid Jewelry cultural appropriation
First, you should know when you are crossing the line.
The idea of cultural appropriation is confusing, and you may have previously appropriated something even without knowing it.
Many trends you may have been a part of and enjoyed have arisen out of appropriated cultural elements.
So, your actions may have all gone beyond the points of cultural appropriation.
In such cases, it is alright to admit that you make mistakes, but you should remind yourself to do better in the future by appreciating such cultural elements.
Ask pertinent questions
Some of the questions you need to ask to determine if you are appropriating or appreciating a culture include:
- If you are using that item as a way for you to educate yourself about the culture in question
- If you have credited the creator or the source of the cultural elements
- Determine if your use of that cultural element supports or amplifies the voices of the people from that culture and if there is a possibility of its use preventing the voices of others from being heard
- Also, ask yourself if the use of that cultural item contributes to some form of stereotype, and more importantly, determine if people get to use that item freely and without facing any discrimination.
- And lastly, you need to determine if the person from the culture in question would seem your actions to be respectful or disrespectful.
That said, you also need to remember that there are circumstances where you may say or do something insensitive or even racist without meaning to or meaning to take away something from that culture or group.
What to do if you are in the wrong?
- In such cases, you should apologize and maybe make some necessary changes. However, you should never insist that what you are doing is right just because your friend is from that culture, and also, you shouldn’t explain how you never meant harm or accuse them of being too sensitive. Also, don’t challenge their belief systems.
- What this means is that you should always acknowledge when you’re wrong, and so, if someone explains to you the harmfulness of your actions, you should know that they are harmful, and you shouldn’t bargain with them.
- Research, The only way to avoid making similar mistakes in the future is by researching to learn about different cultures, the cultural elements that are important to them, and why they are important. You should also educate others on the meaning of appropriation and the things that count as appropriation.
It is a rather thorny subject, and you may never be in the clear.
If anything, you will be faced with the challenge of crossing the line often, but when you do, try to apologize, then do your best to avoid a repeat of the same.
You also need to remember that even when you cannot immerse yourself in their cultural belief systems, you can do something else – you can appreciate all the many cultural elements that make the world a colorful masterpiece.
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Stephanie is a jewelry lover when she was a teenager. Her major was fashion design when she was in college. She is a jewelry designer at SOQ Jewelry and other design companies. Now she is also a writer for our website. She writes a lot of designs&brands posts with very actionable tips.