WHOOPS! Rihanna and British Vogue are currently the new accused parties in the case of ‘Fashion Mess vs. The People’
Both parties collaborated for a magazine cover and are now being accused of cultural appropriation.
However, I’m discussing this topic in detail and this is something I need you to judge for yourself.
(After you read this, let’s meet in the comment section.)
British Vogue released a feature magazine on Friday 3rd April, which came out as a free digital edition in the light of COVID-19 and British Vogue’s desires to give back in a little way via free entertainment.
Rihanna features on the front cover in a durag for the first time ever so I guess that must have distracted us for a little bit from her third feature photo.
In the words of T.I. (TIP) harris, Rih ‘ain’t no mediocre’;
She executed the shot with a fierce attitude sporting a hairstyle of twists with afro puff buttons.
I loved it, the whole world loved it, every picture from that shoot was Rih being Rih.
Rihanna vs. MzVee
All was fine and good until a female Twitter user pointed out some factors and likened Rih to another Artiste ‘MzVee’
whose 2016 music video for her song “La Sauce” featured her rocking the style like a true African goddess. And to be fair @RENISS slayed that hair beyond Rih’s achievement.
Rihanna vs. the Malagasy Women
Soon after that Fashion Ghana got wind of this and chose to re-educate everyone on the proper origins of the hair.
It turns out that Rih’s hairstyle is one that is very common amongst the Malagasy people, a tribe that originated from the African island of Madagascar.
The Republic of Madagascar was previously known as the Malagasy Republic.
It is the world’s 4th largest island country, located in the Indian Ocean approximately 400 km off the coast of East Africa.
In the Malagasy culture, the use of different forms of hairstyles that adapt with age, marital status and circumstances.
There’s a hairstyle for ceremonies (family celebrations, ritual demonstrations…),
there’s an everyday hairstyle and the hairstyle for times of mourning.
Also, the different hairstyles enable the group to classify every individual in their levels of hierarchy.
Rihanna’s hairstylist recreated a style called the Tanavoho.
A look which was the common style for the single Sakalava women, the Sakalava being an ethnic group living in the north of the island.
It is a crown braid with large volume.
Did Rihanna and British Vogue Culturally Appropriate?
This is not the first time Vogue magazine will be in hot soup courtesy some racist or culture appropriation accusation.
We can see that they are trying to rebrand that part of themselves, by hiring Edward Enninful, a full-fledged African man from Ghana, as their Editor-in-chief to bring his perspective and in so doing, re-educate the Brits.
Personally, I would not necessarily call it cultural appropriation if they (British Vogue) could have just gone a step further to celebrate/make known the cultural origins.
It’s no secret that Africa has and may always be the origin of Western artistic expression. We, Africans are well aware of this but that’s not the point.
To prove that they are not culture vultures, it would have been a lot more respectful if they glorified the African heritage that ‘influenced’ them. They passed up a great opportunity to educate the world that the so-called dark continent is actually one that is bursting with a bounty of creativity and vibrance.
And just so you know, in the case of Vogue, ignorance is NOT an excuse.
Condé Nast is too big of a conglomerate to not successfully dot all their I’s, cross their Ts and do extended research.
My advice to Edward Enninful is please do not join (you know who) to mask the strengths of Africa.
By: Joan K. Vincent-Otiono