Cultural Appropriation: Beauty Drenched In Significance
Conversations regarding cultural appropriation have been taking place in Indigenous communities and communities of colour for a number of years. Thanks to their hard work, these discussions have begun to enter into the mainstream. In 2014 Bass Coast released a statement establishing a ban on headdresses at the festival that was picked up by press agencies, sparking a global conversation about cultural respect in the dance music community:
"We understand why people are attracted to war bonnets. They have a magnificent aesthetic. But their spiritual, cultural and aesthetic significance cannot be separated. Bass Coast Festival takes place on Indigenous land and we respect the dignity of aboriginal people. We have consulted with aboriginal people in British Columbia on this issue and we feel our policy aligns with their views and wishes regarding the subject. Their opinion is what matters to us."
Further discussion has brought up questions surrounding other culturally significant clothing and jewellry and the differences between cultural appropriation and appreciation. This article by Amerique Phillips, a sophomore at the University of Utah and Black Student Union social justice director, and Alexis Baker, a senior and Black Student Union president, sheds light on that distinction and offers tips to help determine if it is the time and place to wear questionable pieces. They define cultural appropriation as the "cherry picking or selecting of certain aspects of a culture, and ignoring their original significance for the purpose of belittling it as a trend. Appreciation is honoring and respecting another culture and its practices, as a way to gain knowledge and understanding”. Although these culturally significant items may be aesthetically pleasing, when they are worn as a costume they are stripped of the historical context that makes them important to their respective communities. While the freedom to express oneself through fashion is integral to the music festival experience, respect for other members of the community is just as important.
Please take on the responsibility to do your own research and educate yourself on this issue. When choosing clothing for Bass Coast and anytime, ask the questions:
- Does this item hold traditional significance to a community or culture?
- Is the item intended to express religious beliefs or political statements?
- Does the item designate respect and or status within that culture?
If the answer is yes to any of the above (or if you don’t know), we ask you to reconsider wearing it. Bass Coast’s harm reduction strategy includes a commitment to providing a culturally safe environment for the whole community. A culture of mutual respect is a fundamental part of the Bass Coast experience. Even if you think that your specific use of a culturally significant piece of clothing is respectful, other community members may find it insensitive or upsetting. We ask that you avoid wearing these items at Bass Coast in order to maintain a welcoming and comfortable environment for all festival attendees.
As part of its enduring commitment to social justice, Bass Coast will be hosting two workshops that deal with conversations of cultural respect. SETTLER ACCOMPLICES, facilitated by Jeffrey McNeil-Seymour and ALLYSHIP WITH INDIGENOUS COMMUNITIES: A CONVERSATION, facilitated by Trevor TK will both take place at The Brain on Saturday. You can learn more about these workshops here.