is wearing waist beads cultural appropriation

As more and more women around the world learn about waist beads, and videos go viral on Tik Tok, the question " is wearing waist beads cultural appropriation " has risen in more in our social consciousness. 

Our position is that waist beads can be worn by any woman seeking to monitor her weight, enhance her femininity, or channel certain emotional qualities or improve her well-being.  At Adinkra Expo, we want to celebrate origins, adopt this form of ornamentation, and share that celebration with women around the world, however, it is important to know and respect that history behind it.

Do you remember when the press insinuated that Sasha Obama was “inspired by UFC fighters” when she wore braids to a State Dinner? It was laughable because black women around the world have been wearing braids for centuries, for casual and formal occasions, but suddenly Sasha was “on-trend” {insert awkward laugh}. Or when Kim Kardashian started wearing her “boxer braids?”  Black and brown women around the world rolled their collective eyes for the flagrant disrespect and dismissal of a cultural classic.  The issue was not that she was wearing braids; it was that they insinuated she made up the trend, that it was a brand new hairstyle, and that it had suddenly become hot and trendy because Kim wore them. 

There is a distinct difference between cultural appropriation and cultural appreciation.  If you are intentional about learning the history behind something, are willing to share that history with others, and why you choose to wear something yourself, we support you.  It’s the acknowledgment for us. Our world is becoming increasingly interconnected and we’re working, living and reaching across social, political, ethnic, and national boundaries more everyday.  Waist beads are not exclusively for black or brown women; they are for any and all women -  those from the African diaspora and all of her allies willing to do a little research and share a little knowledge.  *sings R-E-S-P-E-C-T by Aretha*

It’s also important to be conscious of who you’re buying them from.  Seek out authentic waist beads from Ghana instead of just aimlessly scrolling on Etsy for Beads by Susie.  Take a moment to find vendors such as Adinkra Expo who partner directly with artisans in Ghana to create waist beads and ship to you locally. 

As easy as it’s become to Add to Cart, in 2021, let’s stop blindly buying into trends and be a little more intentional with what businesses we choose to support.   

September 23, 2021 — Rita Kusi

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