This 2015 video from Quartz challenges the idea that cultural appropriation is always negative, with a particular focus on the fashion industry. It features Oskar Metsavaht, a Brazilian fashion designer, who works with the indigenous Ashaninka tribe on a “co-branded collaboration.” The video begins by asking if this is an inspired or exploitative practice, reviewing the various ways cultural appropriation has entered discourse about popular culture. It then argues that Metsavaht offers a positive model for cultural appropriation as an “artist” as opposed to a “cultural tourist.” Metsavaht says the tribe gives him inspiration for his designs, and in exchange he tries to distribute their message regarding environmental concerns as well as royalties.
This video argues that borrowing from other cultures in itself is not a bad thing. What do you think about this argument?
Who is usually shown in the role of cultural appropriator? What is their ethnic/racial/class background? Could these roles be reversed? How would that change the situation?
Is it different for a white person to culturally appropriate than for a person of color? Why?
How are economics and cultural appropriation related? Who usually makes money off of cultural appropriation?
In the video, the designer discusses giving the Ashaninka tribe royalties as part of a creative collaboration. Is cultural appropriation more acceptable if the economic outcome is more equitable? What did you think when you saw the designer’s fashions being worn by white models?