Adele’s Bantu Knots Spark Conversations About The Barriers Of Cultural Appropriation And What’s Worth The Upset
If you thought nothing else about 2020 could surprise you anymore, you clearly haven’t seen what’s up with Adele.
Over the weekend the “Hello” singer posted an image of herself to Instagram that quickly found itself under scrutiny. In the photo, Adele is seeing wearing a Jamaican flag bikini top and Bantu knots in her hair. The caption for the post reads “Happy what would be Notting Hill Carnival my beloved London.” A series of flags from Great Britain and Jamaica end the caption.
Adele’s photo appears to be an attempt at cultural appreciation gone off the tilt.
According to Newsweek, “The Notting Hill Carnival is a popular annual event that’s significant in Black British culture, and it takes place during the Sunday and Monday of the country’s August Bank Holiday weekend. The carnival that began in 1966 has taken on a Caribbean flavor since 1976, but it was canceled this year because of COVID-19.”
The cancellation of the event hasn’t kept people from participating in the event virtually in their own ways however. Certainly, it didn’t hold Adele back. The singer wore the traditional African hairstyle that according to NaturallyCurly.com, has been around for over a century. “Bantu” is a term that describes hundreds of African tribes that spoke the “Bantu” language. It does not, however, belong to any one group of people in particular.
Still, it’s easy to understand why Adele’s decision to wear the look has drawn some criticism and brow raises.
In recent years, conversations about cultural appropriation have become commonplace on platforms like Instagram and Twitter. Cancel and Callout Culture have led users to become up in arms whenever a person seems to appropriate the culture of another group. The ire of these hypercritical cultures often seems to know no difference between people who are well-meaning and those who are just intending to be mean.
And while it is true that the misuse and misrepresentation of minority cultures can perpetuate harmful stereotypes and even be seen as an exploitative form of colonialism, in Adele’s case many are wondering whether this is the case.
“All this crying about silly things is getting boring now mind, remember when black people had real issues to fight for…now they get triggered by a white woman’s hairstyle,” one user wrote in the comments section of Adele’s post.
“If 2020 couldn’t get any more bizarre, Adele is giving us Bantu knots and cultural appropriation that nobody asked for. This officially marks all of the top white women in pop as problematic. Hate to see it,” journalist Ernest Owens commented about the image.
“WE LOVE SEEING OUR FLAG EVERYWHERE!!!!” one person wrote in the comments. “This made me smile. It shows the impact my little island has on the whole world. How influential we truly are.”
Still, some have been quick to remind others that while yes Adele’s post is odd and problematic the singer has long been an ally of black people.
She has paid tribute to Black people and Black artistry in appropriate ways. Let’s give her a chance to do it again? After all, as the carnival’s executive director, Matthew Phillip pointed out to The Guardian over the weekend, the event has particular significance this year.
“For more than 50 years carnival has been a statement that Black Lives Matter,” Phillip pointed out. “That’s normal practice for us, it’s not something that we’re just jumping on now because of the current global climate and what’s going on. Carnival has been making these statements for 50 years… In a year when people have been protesting against the treatment of black people, I think this is a good way of showing that we have something to contribute, something that is positive.”