Appreciation or appropriation: what does WHHS have to say?


Photo courtesy of: Adele/Instagram

The photo that sparked a frenzy. Adele, pictured in a Jamaican Flag bikini, a yellow feather headdress, Bantu knots, and black and gray yoga pants, has become the center of a cultural storm after posting what she wore to Notting Hill Carnival in 2019 on Instagram.

Appropriation or appreciation? That is the question.

Due to Covid-19 cultural festivals around the world have been canceled. One such festival was Notting Hill Carnival.

Notting Hill Carnival, according to BBC, is “all about celebrating Caribbean heritage, arts and culture – including music, food and dancing.” It was started by a woman named Rhaune Laslett who wanted to celebrate diversity in Notting Hill, where she lived with her mom and dad, by throwing a festival. 

The festival has millions of attendees and last year, about 2.5 million people took part in the festival.

One notable attendee of the festival was award-winning singer-songwriter Adele. Lately, Adele has been facing a lot of backlash for what she wore to the festival. In a recent Instagram post, she uploaded a picture of her festival attire and captioned it, “Happy what would have been Notting Hill Carnival my beloved London.”

Because of this picture she has been accused of cultural appropriation. According to Oxford Languages, the definition of cultural appropriation is “the unacknowledged or inappropriate adoption of the customs, practices, ideas, etc. of one people or society by members of another and typically more dominant people or society.”

However, some people have come to her defense, saying that she was appreciating Caribbean culture rather than appropriating it. The definition of cultural appreciation is “when someone seeks to understand and learn about another culture in an effort to broaden their perspective and connect with others cross-culturally.”

WHHS students were asked to look at the picture above and tell by first glance whether they thought it was appropriation or appreciation. The only information they were given were the definitions of cultural appropriation and appreciation.

The main reason for the cultural appropriation accusations were because of the Bantu Knots Adele was wearing in the photo. 

Bantu Knots, also known as Zulu Knots for the tribe of Bantu people that started them, originated around 1898.

The students who hadn’t seen the photo yet gave a blind reaction to it and those who had already seen it stated their opinions on the photo. The results from those who answered, like those on social media, were very mixed. 

Some people think it’s cultural appreciation and some think it’s cultural appropriation. There are some people who just don’t know. 

For instance, Phoenix Lewis, ‘25, said it’s cultural appropriation, Because she is using someone’s culture as a costume. That’s like being a Native American on Halloween or wearing a hijab for a day.”

However, another student at WHHS, Madisyn Ellis, ‘22, said that she thinks it’s cultural appreciation. “She never claimed that culture as her own,” Ellis said, “She simply just wore the outfit to an event praising the culture in question. People should try to research the claims they are making before jumping to Twitter trying to ‘cancel’ someone for something that you don’t fully understand.”

Evelyn Denen, ‘26, also said she thinks it’s appreciation. 

“She wasn’t trying to offend anyone with this picture. I think she was just trying to show appreciation to the members of that community,” Denen said.

And as aforementioned, some people said they didn’t know. One such person was Joanna Lin, ‘23. 

“Adele has been known to be a big supporter of the black community, so she should know the history of braids and about the use of the Ghana flag,” Lin said, “But some people are trying to justify this because of the setting of the picture and calling outrage towards this as a type of ‘white savior complex’. I don’t know about Adele personally or the festival she’s attending so I can’t form a strong opinion.”

The only person that can explain the reasoning behind her festival wear is Adele, who has not yet released a public statement about the accusations. Until she does, there will be no sure way to prove why she did what she did.


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