February 18, 2021
Are you being a culture vulture by wearing waist beads? Are waist beads only for African women? Can white women wear waist beads?
These are all the questions that I hear from women all around the world as waist beads become more popular/trendy.
"Cultural appropriation is the adoption of an element or elements of one culture or identity by members of another culture or identity. This can be controversial when members of a dominant culture appropriate from disadvantaged minority cultures". -Wikipedia
Based on the definition above and the clear understanding that adopting other cultures traditions can become negative when credit isn't given to the original source/culture.
As an African woman who sells waist beads, I am more that happy to share that side of my culture or tradition to everyone who is willing to respect it. I have noticed that many women are using waist beads to track and manage their weight and to spice up their relationship. Their intentions of wearing waist beads are personal to each woman and respect them for appreciating African culture.
The down fall of a tradition becoming a trend is when you notice people creating their own rituals or false history of waist beads and spreading that around as if it is the truth. That is when it becomes cultural appropriation.
Buying machine made or factory made waist beads for $1 is the epitome of cultural of cultural appropriation. It all comes down to acknowledgement and giving credit where it is due. If you are wearing African waist beads, it should be purchased or made in Africa. This directly borrows from the culture and supports that artisans who create the intricate waist beads. By replacing the traditional artisan with a machine to pump out the product quickly and cheaply is cultural appropriation.
It is obviously not always easy to buy your waist beads directly from Africa. You can find vendors who are willing to go through the trouble for you. Support black businesses. You can also make your own with the knowledge and appreciation of where it came from.
Lastly, as long as your intention is to support the artisans, sellers, and African makers of waist beads, you are not doing anything wrong. No matter your size or race/color, if your intention is to use waist beads and appreciate them, Go Ahead! Have Fun!