Corner: Deep Dive.
BY; JAVERIA ASAD, ALKHOBAR.
Being an ex-pat in Saudi Arabia I have experienced a multicultural environment as you will find many nationalities around you with their cultures and languages. In my opinion, I have observed cultural appropriation more than celebration.
To be honest, I am not a big fan of this cultural appropriation.
In my understanding, there is a drastic difference between cultural appropriation and culture celebration.
To celebrate something means you are not only liking that particular ritual of any other culture, but you are also very much convinced with the philosophy and ideology of that particular tradition or ritual, and before a celebration, you have studied and perceived well all the norms of that ritual more deeply. And you are adopting it ‘AS IT IS’ with its true essence, I mean, without any alterations, and also you are giving them full credit and acknowledging the source of that ritual you got inspired.
For example, when I visited Malaysia in 2018, I noticed that wherever we paid bills in the shops, restaurants or taxis drivers took it with some particular right-hand body gesture. I asked one of the shopkeepers and he said that this is our faith that when we receive money from our right hand, God adds blessings to our business or work. I really got inspired by it and adopted it in my life with the same belief. This is called a cultural celebration.
The term “cultural appropriation” was added to the Oxford English Dictionary in 2018, which defined it as “the unacknowledged or inappropriate adoption of the practices, customs, or aesthetics of one social or ethnic group by members of another (typically dominant) community or society.”
Like if you are picking certain ingredients from that certain cultural activity which suit you and ignoring the other aspects because you don’t find it appropriate to adopt then this is cultural appropriation. And this is unethical and unjustified to the people who celebrate it as their traditions respectfully.
For example, I saw many Arab girls.
wearing a black necklace which is used by Indian married women, they wear it after getting married and they wear it with so much respect and warmth. They have a religious, social, and emotional attachment to that necklace. But Arab girls wore it just as a fashion symbol, totally ignoring the philosophy and essence behind that necklace.
So, I believe if you are adopting things just because you like them without knowing their background of it, then definitely you are not setting a good trend for your kids. Being a mother if I do something and I am unable to convince with any logical justifications then in future my kids can also adopt many things without knowing the reasons behind it. And this thing is inappropriate and can damage many social and religious norms. You can say cultural disaster. We should respect all cultures and traditions as civilized people.
It may be natural to merge and blend cultures as people from different backgrounds come together and interact. In fact, many wonderful inventions and creations have been generated from the merging of such cultures, such as country music. However, the line is drawn when a dominant cultural group makes use of elements of a non-dominant group in a way that the non-dominant group views as exploitative.
In the 1950s, white musicians “invented” rock and roll; however, the musical style was borrowed from Black musicians who never received credit.
Give credit or recognize the origin of items that you borrow or promote from other cultures rather than claiming them to be your own original ideas.
Take the time to learn about and truly appreciate a culture before you borrow or adapt elements of that culture. Learn from those who are members of the culture, visit venues run by actual members of a culture and attend authentic events.