On Sunday, Adele posted a photo of herself wearing a Jamaican flag bikini top wearing her hair in Bantu knots as a tribute to Notting Hill Carnival.
Carnival has been a celebration led by British West Indian people in Kensington, London since 1966. Every year, the cultural streetfest takes place on the streets of Notting Hill, but this year, due to the coronavirus pandemic, it’s gone virtual. As an ode to the in-person merriment, the Grammy Award-winning British singer captioned her Instagram post, “Happy what would be Notting Hill Carnival my beloved London.”
Black Twitter reacted to her post with memes and cultural puns.
Many Black American observers, like Philadelphia journalist Ernest Owens, labeled her styling as cultural appropriation because she is a white English woman wearing a Jamaican flag, with her hair in a traditional African hairstyle.
Others disagreed with Owens and protested any claims of cultural appropriation. Those in favor of Adele’s stylishness reacted to her post with fondness, labeling her repurposing of Jamaica’s national banner and knotting of her blonde locks instead “cultural appreciation.”
Lelani Santana was joined by others who claimed Jamaicans loved that Adele took time to show she valued their culture. Many shared the belief that Black Americans were the only Black people offended by her look.
Overall, most reactions were on either side of these perspectives.
There is a thin line between cultural appreciation and cultural appropriation, officials at non-profit organization Preemptive Love opined in a May blog post.
“Cultural appreciation can easily turn into cultural appropriation. Instead of honoring another culture, appropriation demeans and dishonors. It perpetuates harmful stereotypes and deepens divides between communities,” it read.
The backlash from Adele’s controversial post comes after Carnival’s executive director, Matthew Phillip, spoke with The Guardian to outline the cultural depth of the annual West Indian celebration, thumbing his nose at disapproving Americans all the while.
“For more than 50 years, Carnival has been a statement that Black Lives Matter,” said Phillip. “That’s normal practice for us; it’s not something that we’re just jumping on now because of the current global climate and what’s going on. Carnival has been making these statements for 50 years.”
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