You’re probably tired of hearing the term ‘cultural appropriation’. And while the dialogue can be exhausting it goes far beyond the Miley Cyruses and Kylie Jenners of the world twerking and wearing cornrows. It exists on a broader, less visible scale with predatory corporations taking advantage of black cultural pride to cash in.
Popular black jewelry designer Rachel Stewart recently revealed her shocking decision to shut down her shop after failing to stop rampant Chinese plagiarism of her work. And black beauty supply owners continue to struggle for market share. Now light has been shed on another predatory practice. Ghanaian-based print shop Dziffa recently made its customers aware of cheap, imitation ‘African” prints that are flooding the market. In an article titled Dear Afrocentrists, “African Prints” Are Not From Africa, they break down the harmful effect these prints have;
I have had a lot of inquiries about the Kente fabrics we sell at Dziffa.com with some asking just why our prints are so expensive when other outlets are selling them for $7 a yard. I want to address this by firstly saying that we don’t sell prints and the “African Prints” you buy are not made-in-Africa. I am going to use the picture below to address this topic.
The fabric I’m wearing on my body is called Kente. It is made from cotton by skilled artisans and handwoven in the manner that spiders weave their web. It is very authentic. You can have them for decades and they will still look brand new. 6 yards of Kente can take about one week to make as every part of the it is unique, requires a lot of focus, skill, and manpower.
The headscarf I have on is an “Idea of Kente” stolen by the Chinese and co. and marketed to African-Americans as “African prints.”
African prints have no connection to the continent whatsoever and they are destroying our local fabric industry.
To make matters worse, African market women are importing them and selling them to tourists as African.
Instead of being offended and educating non-Africans that the Chinese, Indians and a few local manufacturing companies are messing up our industry by stealing our ideas and marketing them as “African”, we are just following the trend and not stopping to tell people that “hey, this one is Kente from Ghana and this other one is just an idea of the Kente that is depriving us of customers we need to grow our local industry.”
If all the money sent to non-African manufacturers in the name of “African Prints” were channeled to the continent, our manufacturers would have the financial resource to innovate the way they produce, the sector will be attractive to young people, provide jobs and contribute to the economy.
Let’s all try and remember the last sentence the next time we are tempted to buy a colorful Chinese print from someone marketing them to us as African.
We are all contributors of this continent; we can either invest in its growth or contribute to its underdevelopment. No savior is coming and the bad guys don’t exist. We are the saviors, we can choose to go with the trends or change the wave. The ball is in our court.
Wow. Ladies, what are your thoughts?