The latest celebrity accused of cultural appropriation is Shraddha Kapoor. As soon as the actor posted a picture of herself from her shoot for photographer Dabboo Ratnani’s calendar, users called it cultural appropriation, commanding her to ‘educate herself, apologise and take the picture off’. The aesthetically shot picture shows a fierce looking Shraddha giving those warrior princess vibes, wearing a beautiful faux Native American headdress.

The traditional feathered headdresses are worn by leaders of the Native American tribes, awarded to those who have dedicated their lives to the cause of their tribes. The Native Americans tribes are a marginalized community in the US that have been victim of hatred and discrimination. They have suffered genocide and land displacement, and therefore reducing their symbol of courage to a fashion accessory reeks of ignorance and apathy, users reasoned.

Historian Pushpesh Pant believes Shraddha has been legitimately charged of cultural appropriation. “She is trivializing the struggle of the indigenous people. The problem of indigenous people across the world is so acute. These communities have been systematically annihilated. This isn’t a calendar dedicated to celebrating the Native American tribal culture. She has only exhibited her illiteracy and indifference with this shoot,” he says.

Photographer Dabboo Ratnani didn’t imagine this sort of reaction when he shot this piece. “My intention wasn’t to hurt anyone. This is not a commercial calendar. It’s an art piece. We are not making money by commercialising it. We loved the piece. We didn’t make fun of it or disrespect it. We did it in good faith,” says Ratnani. Admaker Prahlad Kakkar agrees. “Attention seekers are always in the lookout for such things to stir controversy. Tomorrow, if I wear a kimono, am I disrespecting Japanese culture? Isn’t this world one big family? Why can’t I adopt and applaud an element of a culture that many not be my own?,” he asks.

Designer Rina Dhaka, too, believes that we should rise above such barriers. “Fashion is a great unifier. Fashion has always picked inspiration from world history. For ages, we have enriched ourselves by exchanging art, music, clothes, food, and knowledge from myriad cultures. Such exchanges add vibrancy to life. Let’s look at it as a celebration of another culture,” she says.

Canadian psychologist Jordan B. Peterson once shared similar views in a talk show, calling the idea of cultural appropriation ‘an absolute nonsense’. “There’s no difference between cultural appropriation and learning from one another. They are the same thing. It’s one of the basis of peace. One of the things that human beings have to offer each other is the tremendous value of their culture,” he said.

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First Published: Feb 01, 2019 11:17 IST

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