A recent photo of Grammy winning singer Adele has stirred up controversy over her appropriation of a traditional African hairstyle called Bantu knots while wearing a Jamaican flag bikini top at Notting Hill Carnival last year.
The festival was cancelled this year due to the necessity of social distancing measures and the singer seems to think that the photo was a good tribute to the event. The effort seems to have largely fallen short, however, judging by people's general reaction.
Bantu knots are a protective hairstyle that has been around for over 100 years, according to Naturally Curly.
Protective hairstyles are styles that help prevent damage to Black hair. They also have important cultural significance in the Black community.
Not everyone disapproved of the singer's grooming choices, and several high-profile figures cheered her on in the Instagram comments.
Poppycock! This humbug totally misses the spirit of Notting Hill Carnival and the tradition of “ dress up” or “ mas… https://t.co/4IGT5IN3c5— David Lammy (@David Lammy) 1598877778.0
Twitter was on fire over the weekend with criticism for Adele's hairstyle choice, however.
If 2020 couldn't get anymore bizarre, Adele is giving us Bantu knots and cultural appropriation that nobody asked f… https://t.co/uzuAaQQvmt— Ernest Owens (@Ernest Owens) 1598827688.0
You want to participate in blackness but without the burden that comes with blackness, if you don't get lost— ThatPortharcourtBoy Aka Obiageliaku (@ThatPortharcourtBoy Aka Obiageliaku) 1598861232.0
Bantu knots. On her white scalp. https://t.co/ubosdswjfN— • (@•) 1598826881.0
it is NEVER okay for yt girls to wear hairstyles like bantu knots, cornrows, or braids. idc what anybody says.— SCOTTIE 💸 (@SCOTTIE 💸) 1598828786.0
certain "Black hairstyles" are PROTECTIVE HAIRSTYLES, not a trend/aesthetic to make you look more ethnic. what the… https://t.co/8Yuj13DEDA— SCOTTIE 💸 (@SCOTTIE 💸) 1598829182.0
"Many are arguing that Adele was showing appreciation for Carnival and Caribbean culture with her look but apprecia… https://t.co/UEGw1sVML4— British GLAMOUR (@British GLAMOUR) 1598873277.0
The Vixen, best known for appearing on season 10 of Ru Paul's Drag Race, wasn't having any of it.
https://t.co/jlW5N7r66U— The Vixen (@The Vixen) 1598866520.0
Non-Black people need to stop wearing historically black hairstyles for fun. Simply out of respect for the fact tha… https://t.co/UpPe7EMkHq— The Vixen (@The Vixen) 1598880456.0
While not specific to this incident with Adele, Naturally Curly has already covered the issue of cultural appropriation when it comes to Bantu knots and other Black hairstyles.
"Cultural appropriation is particularly threatening with regard to Black hair because Black women have had to fight for equal representations in several industries and for our beauty to be valued by society."
"Often times when Black women have worn traditionally Black hairstyles it is written off as 'unprofessional' or 'ghetto,' but when White women do it, suddenly it's fashionable or a 'new' trend."
When thinking about choosing a hairstyle or other fashion choice with cultural significance, consider whether you have any connection to the culture that style comes from.
If not, it's probably best to stick to what you know.