Of late, many media have focused on what tribalists of all ilk call “cultural appropriation.” The thinking goes that if you venture outside your artistic bounds to compose a work including aspects from another culture, you’re guilty.
Pharrell Williams is drawing criticism from some quarters for his new Adidas items comprising “The Hu Holi Powder Dye Collection.”
What is Hu Holi, what does it have to do with sportswear, and why is Pharrell drawing fire?
“The spiritual Hindu festival of Holi, also known as the “festival of colors,” takes place each March to herald the arrival of springtime and the triumph of good over evil. Festival attendees paint their bodies head-to-toe and fling bright powders in the air, hoping for long-lasting color in their daily lives. Inspired by the magic and beauty of this expression, Pharrell re-envisions an adidas’ iconic adicolor offer. These pieces serve as a follow-up to the pristine Blank Canvas collection and the hyper-color Powder Dye collection previously released.”
Pharrell attended this year’s celebration in India.
Critics took note, especially those concentrated in the social media cesspool otherwise known as Twitter:
“[T]he Twitter-sphere has accused both Williams and Adidas of appropriating Indian culture for the sake of fashion.”
When you hear someone decry “cultural appropriation”, bear in mind it’s a purely political term. The human race would be in very big trouble, in fact, if we didn’t appropriate good things from each other’s cultures and ethnicities. Antibiotics come to mind. Christmas. Football. Curt Cobain couldn’t have covered Lead Belly’s “In the Pines.” The list is endless.
Art should not embrace limitations based on political posturing. Ever.
Thus far, Pharrell and Adidas aren’t backing down.
That’s a good thing.
Personally speaking, I wish the entire world would spiritually and officially appropriate the US Constitution’s free speech amendment, otherwise known as Amendment 1. The US is unique in that regard, with government power over speech restricted on a level no other country enjoys.
That’s a good thing too.
(Kay B. Day/March 13, 2018)