October 27, 2021No Comments

The Problem With Music Festivals: Vibes Of Appropriation

History, culture and art surround us daily but it isn't every day we’re at a music festival. It's been the topic of discussion for years and boundaries are still being crossed. So why is rich history and culture still being appropriated at music festivals? 

Drinks, check. Ticket, check. Outfit made from stolen culture, check. With the festival season coming to a close the topics of discussions are the same as it's been for years. No change and certainly not much improvement. It's easy to put on an outfit and follow trends without thinking about where its origin. This is where it's easy to be a villain of cultural appropriation.

Cultural Appropriation vs Cultural Appreciation

There's a fine line between appropriation and appreciation but where the defining point belongs is respect, education and acceptance. If you are wearing a bindi to a music festival you are taking a style with cultural significance and placing it in your culture without ode or respect for its original cultural reference/placement. If you are to wear a bindi to an Asian friend's wedding you are taking their culture, using it in cultural respect and placement and taking part in the culture. It's a simple question: Am I wearing this with respect to its original culture? And am I wearing this in a culturally appropriate scenario? If you’re ever unsure if your fashion choices are culturally appropriate simply don't wear it at all, you have to do the hard work, it's not about asking permission but having a conversation that informs you about your choice and the roots.

Fashion & Festivals

Fashion has been the culprit of appropriation for years. We’ve seen it on the catwalk, within music videos and now on the high street. And despite the harsh call-out culture of the 21st century, fashion seems to be making daily mistakes. It isn't just companies to blame, it's the consumer too. Some things weren’t meant for YOU to buy and wear and that's okay. So to make it easier Culture Shift has made a list of what not to wear and what to wear instead!


Native Indian Headdresses:

Image Credits: I Use To Be A Highschool Feminist

Yes, they’re colourful and full of culture, which is beautiful in itself but definitely not meant to be part of your festival outfit. Worn by most natives of North America, these spectacular headpieces are often made from horsehair, porcupine and animal feathers. They were popular on the battlefields and most tribes have speciality colours, shapes and materials. And besides, I’m not sure native ancestors would appreciate yesterday's cheeseburger and fries all over their culture headdress.

Black Hairstyles

Image Credits: Adele Instagram

After years of appropriation, black hairstyles are finally getting the appreciation they deserve. We’re nearly there in wiping out appropriation of black culture but at this year's festivals many attended with braids, hair jewels and certain hairstyles only to be worn by the black community. We’ve seen appropriation on runways, high street brands and all across social media in the past century so by now it should be clear what to wear and what to avoid. But let's make it clear: No cornrows, no box braids and no Bantu knots. These hairstyles do however have exceptions (for appreciation purposes only). Take Adele for example. Her IG post of missing the days of Carnival and posing in her Bantu knots got some backlash but her intention was appreciation rather than appropriation. She was knee-deep in Jamaican culture, got her Knots done by a local hairstylist and danced the night away, and this is where the difference is clear.


Image Credits: Junkee

A historical and cultural symbol of India and Southeastern Asia. The bindi is jewels, make-up and studs of the face often used for wedding ceremonies and religious holidays. Over the years, wearing jewels and face tattoos to festivals have become more and more popular. With high street brands such as ASOS, Newlook and Boots selling sets and marketing them around the festival season it's no surprise that the bindi is now an overused sight of summer days. With no cultural recognition whatsoever the bindi is the latest and most popular trend and continues to become a huge victim of appropriation.

Bucket Hats, Print Shirts & Side Pouches

We saw it from Alex at Glasto and pretty much the entire 2019 and 2021 festival season. The Air Max, baggy and grimey style is an ode to early Grime and Garage days, a little controversial when you’re at a techno festival. With the popularity of the BAFTA-winning show “People Just Do Nothing'', particular to the mockumentary style of comedy you'll see people taking on their own parody of this style. Smart wear like Patterned Moschino was the uniform that came out of 2Step and Garage - strangely enough, loafers, smart trousers and even a sports jacket were the go-to ensembles. As this evolved into Grime the footwear became more comfortable and as the tempo increased you would ditch loafers for Nike TNs, the smart trousers for shorts, especially in clubs abroad (think Spain, Cyprus etc).

Add in the styles of 90s rave Bucket hats, from EDM culture and baggies in bum bags it's no wonder we have the style we do today that resembles our friend Alex. The difference between Alex and general festival-goers is the love for the culture and the music - to literally know bar-for-bar and go absolutely ape shit when your favourite riddim is played. This is the art of posing, you’re either a real one or just a manakin. We all know a charlatan when we see one. 


Hair Accessories 

Okay, hear us out... We know you probably wore this to a 2011 One Direction concert but pick the right hairstyle and glitter colour to fit your outfit and away we go. It's cheap, easy to do and looks great all day. Yes, it might take out 3-4 washes to get out but a minor inconvenience at best. Pair with french braids, space buns or a simple down style, will the glitter look take over the festivals of 2022?

French Braids

If you didn't sit around your whole lunchtime in secondary school braiding people's hair like this then you simply weren’t ‘cool.’ They stay out all day, good with all lengths of hair and most importantly belong to white and European culture! Add glitter for that extra sparkle or add some hair jewels if you please. 10/10 for comfort and creativity.

Face Glitter 

Photo Credits: IStock

A fan of the 2015 Tumblr rainbow or not, face glitter has been used since the birth of festivals and goes back to the peace & love movement of the ’60s. Yet again the perfect colour match for any outfit, the only downside is you may have to apply every few hours but definitely worth the attraction. Pair with a colour-contrasting eyeshadow, neon top and some matching trainers. A definite summer looks for next year. 

Power Suits 

Now I know what you’re thinking, straight leg polycotton trousers and a tightly fitted blazer. No Clark Kent shit but definitely his alter ego Superman. Your Thor hammer may not make it through security but you can jump the queue with those drunken superpowers and by the time you make it to the stage you'll get a rush of power. So why not make your outfit a little more fun and wear your Spiderman, Tinker Bell and Aquaman outfit and even reuse it at Halloween?

What needs to be done: 

We know things need to change but ultimately the chance is you, me and us. Cultural appropriation doesn’t seem to be sailing off anytime soon but to make its stay shorter we can start by making conscious fashion decisions. Ask yourself those key questions, leave room for education and think twice before leaving the house. We have a whole cold winter ahead of us and plenty of time to plan next year's festival fits. Let's make sure it's one that feels right and belongs to YOU.

February 3, 2021No Comments

How Rihanna’s Acknowledgment of the Farmers’ Protest in India Created a Wave of Shame-Projection in the South Asian Diaspora

I was in power-down mode last night at about 8:40pm when Rihanna inadvertently set the South-Asian diaspora on fire with #FarmersProtest. I hadn’t even got round to my ritual of redbush tea and I had a couple of direct messages asking “you going to post about the farmer’s protest?”. Pump the brakes, let me sip my tea first. Ok leggo...

Recently we’ve been noticing a large trend of people documenting activities or paying lip service to support particular movements - from the Libyan government protests in London to the BLM movement all around the world. Let’s be clear - taking a selfie on a march to prove you care or posting a black square alone does not solve the issue - it is what we called performative activism. Putting more effort into the display and expression of solidarity versus actually moving the needle doesn’t help the effort.

Let’s set the baseline there. If we all have a clear understanding of what performative activism is unless you are a large organisation or a person of influence with trailblazing capabilities, how is prompting someone to post to social media going to help move the campaign forward? Some might say it raises awareness - if we take the usual blanket action rate of 2% that means even a micro-influencer with 10,000 followers will have 200 people like, comment, or share the post. Wait up, I’m trying to find a way to get a hot segue into how this can be used to mobilise communities in real life - maybe if I refill my tea that might help.

No that was a lie, it won’t help. You see Hasan Minhaj coined it perfectly in Patriot Act - everyone is posting and trying to get your attention for their movement and campaigns which is causing compassion fatigue. We have been pulled in so many directions that trigger different tribes in us - do you even care about the turtles swimming in plastic? You don’t believe climate change is real? Why aren’t you a feminist? Shouldn’t we be helping indigenous communities?... Ok, stop. I need to refill my tea after that. It becomes the worst activity to figure out what the priority is, like having only one hot meal left in a communal soup kitchen and figuring out who gets to have it.

But don’t stop there, let's add your ethnic identity to it. If you are part of the South-Asian diaspora you must show your devout sprint-to-the finish support otherwise your brown card will be revoked? I’m surprised Brit-Asian comedian Romesh Ranganathan hasn’t been hounded by a brown-mob. I mean it makes sense - he was a teacher, and has performed in a satirical and sarcastic style - he’s the perfect poster boy for this! It doesn’t matter that he’s Sri Lankan, or that he’s a confessed coconut and resonates deeply with hip-hop and black culture - no intricate part of what makes up his identity matters apart from being brown.

Other Brit-Asians and personalities in the limelight from the diaspora are receiving this compounding pressure right now. We’re expecting them to politicise their platforms especially when they have never been vocal about any socio-political issues, or have the experience in political activism. Some will say “but they have a mass following, they should speak up about it”. Yep, that’s right, when a high profile individual has a huge following, but no experience in discussing or handling sensitive issues and matters it will surely always turn out picture-perfect. Do you remember that time a property mogul won the US election?

Yep, we wanted to stay clear of the T-word, just like all the other bullshit in 2020 let’s leave him there. But we can’t stay clear of the M-word - Modi, yes you were probably wondering when we’ll address the elephant in the room. The farmers are protesting against a series of agricultural laws that see the deregulation of crop pricing which farmers say will leave them at the mercy of big corporations. This will destabilize the crop prices and could cause financial ruin for the Jat farmers. However, the Dalits (India’s indigenous community that face discrimination as a low caste) will find themselves further in ruin due to the small size of landholdings, unequal access to financial and infrastructural resources, and huge debt bondage. These are the people most affected yet they will become the most invisible throughout this movement.

Still confident your one post will cause a butterfly effect? We don’t think so - there’s a huge difference between being a spectator to political activism and then taking action. Taking the authority to monitor everyone else’s social media feeds and triggering others to post is a toxic projection. The lack of movement and inability to cause an actual change in the ego will cause people to point the finger, this very much about the I and you. What we need to do is change this to the collective ‘we’ and ‘us’.

Instead of berating someone to post about the Farmers Protest, rally your own local community and contact your local MP, State Governors or Local Councils. Perhaps get in touch with relatives overseas in India who are politically and geographically affected - ask to find out what resources and support they need. That’s real activism, if you are going to post then provide calls-to-action. Real activism is about using your time, energy, and finances - really paying the price of activism without seeking the glory - and this is exactly what performative activism is. All glory, no price.

Rihanna had a real wtf moment which is why she posted about the #FarmersProtest. This was genuine disbelief at what was happening, but as part of the South-Asian diaspora let’s not turn to cliche Indian soap operas and over-dramatise our disgust on social media. Before you point with your fingers, look at your palms and if they aren’t weathered enough you haven’t done the work and paid the price. Don’t perform - act.

To learn more about the Farmers Protest and how you can actually help, we've collected a few useful resources for you here:


Khalsa Aid

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