Cultural Appropriation during Halloween: one writer’s thoughts

Courtesy of Flickr.

Nimechi Ikechi-uko/Contributing Writer

Last Halloween, I saw a girl wearing a loose-fitting caftan and a septum ring on her nose, which are Fulani, and it included some tribal marks, which are Yoruba. These are both tribes from Nigeria. To me, this was an indication of mockery because the person had no clue that they came from two different tribes, each with their own, distinct culture.

I am Nigerian and my culture is not a costume. Speaking out about Halloween cultural appropriation is often avoided by some because the feeling is that you don’t want to keep people from enjoying the festivities.

Tribal marks are more than just marks for the Yoruba. Tribal marks symbolize scarifications, which are precise identification and beautification marks drawn on the face or body of the person. Originally the marks were made to be able to distinguish between tribes but along the way it changed. Some are given as a sign of beauty. These marks are sometimes done when a child is born after the death of a Yoruba head.   

The tribal marks are part of the Yoruba culture and are usually drawn on the body by burning or cutting the skin during childhood.  But to this particular girl dressed in a caftan on Halloween, it did not matter. All she thought about was a costume.  

Cultural appropriation is a dent in the history of America. America is not the only country with this issue but it is more of a problem in America. This is one of the earliest daring racist pattern.

Cultural appropriation falls under “the principle that people belong to a specific culture that are less human,” according to Jessica Andrews, Digital Fashion Editor from TeenVogue.

The culture of Africa is different and mixed, consisting of an assortation of tribes that have their own characteristics. It is a creation of the diverse societies that live today in the continent of Africa and the African diaspora. Africa has impacted and been impacted by other continents.

Incorporating someone’s culture with ease, their language, their dress, mimicking their traditions, is like saying the culture is not worthy of the respect they have earned. Dressing up as one of the scary story characters in the folktale makes me feel offended.  When I see someone who is not African dressed as an African and they do not get the culture right, I feel disrespected and wronged.

My culture is my way of life and it is sad that some people find it a joke. My culture is more than dressing up on a certain day out of the year. Cosplaying as something or someone is basically mocking the culture.

Afro-wig is not just a fun hair piece to wear and throw away after Halloween. It has a symbol to most African-American women. We are stigmatized as being untidy and this costume is incredibly insensitive to the real struggles African-Americans have wearing their natural hair.

Some of us are still insecure about our natural hair and are trying to accomplish a natural look, but when you are trying to move forward to a place of tranquility, it does not make it easy to have a constant reminder to what people have labeled you out to be.

It is hurtful. Costumes are supposed to be funny and harmless, but this is not funny nor is it harmless. Cultural appropriation is dehumanizing our culture, our history and our very existence. It should not have a place in the society either during Halloween or any other part of the year. My culture is my life.

This column does not reflect the views or opinions of FIU Student Media.

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