My idea is influenced by the recent controversy surrounding Urban Outfitters Navajo apparel. The chain recently released Native American inspired designs giving them names like “Navajo Hipster Panty”(link). The items in question came under fire for not only being highly offensive, but also for violating Indian Arts and Craft Act of 1990 and the trademark the Navajo tribe has on it’s name.
But few groups have/can copyright their culture and protect it from unauthorized appropriation.
In the mid 2000’s Gwen Stephani appropriated the Harajuku style that originated in Tokyo.
Beyond forming an entourage of 4 Harajuku girls who silently followed her around, Stephani created a brand called Harakjuku Lovers. But when Forever 21 started making similar clothing, Stephani http://www.eonline.com/news/gwen_hates_on_harajukus_lovers/55656sued for copyright infringement. "We feel that both our L.A.M.B. and Harajuku Lovers designs have been infringed upon by Forever 21 and we plan to vigorously protect our intellectual property," said Stephani’s legal rep. The irony here of course being that the “intellectual property” Stephani wants to protect, was “stolen”, “copied”, “appropriated” from the Japanese people.
Appropriation Art is most interesting, to me, because it recontextualizes the past. But this is rather decontextualization. This commodification erases the histories and significance tied to these cultural artifacts.
I choose the specific elements which make up the main figure in order to show a spectum of cultural appropriation.
For example, the Louis Vuitton bag was made in collaboration with Asian artist Takashi Murakami. Few would find this offensive as Murakami was credited for the design and monetarily compensated.
The Keffiyeh, currently being sold at Urban Outfitter, is a variation on an Arab scarf worn by men(link). http://www.jewlicious.com/2007/01/urban-outfitters-bends-to-the-will-of-the-jews-on-keffiyeh/ It was adopted by Palestinian politition, Yasser Arafat and became a symbol of Palestinian solidarity in the conflict against Israel.
I specifically didn't mark the figure with a race (although I think the items mark themselves with whiteness) because I wanted to ask whether appropriation of a minority cultural by another minority culture has the same implication as it does when white society does it. Because Black have never majorly oppressed Native Americans, is it more ok for them to wear "tribal inspired" attire?