The topic of Cultural Appropriation vs. Creative Freedom

I didn't have to think a long time about addressing this topic here, because it is very important to me. I might not be the best informed (there is so much to learn and to understand!) or best speaker for this topic but I really need to talk about it since I am following a very judgmental approach in my life to not hurt or exploit anyone, hence I create art, that I wish to motivate and inspire instead of hurting people.


So I run over this topic two weeks ago when I came across the IG profile of another pattern designer, who had a huge fight with some Instagrammers about her Japanese inspired fabric collection. I don't want to go too deep into the conversation, but the German designer used the classic traditional winky cat and cherry blossom flowers on the prints and some people were accusing her of Cultural Appropriation.


For me on the first run I couldn't understand why she was given so much negative response to this. During my fashion design studies I was taught to create collections inspired by African, Indian and whatever other cultural influences. I was used to this and I thought she did a great job in executing her inspirations found in the Japanese culture. But reading the comments and listening to the recent movement against Anti-Asian racism, I found understanding why such a cute print could hurt somebody's feelings very deeply.


It is for sure a very thin line between Cultural Appropriation and creative freedom for an artist, and I would probably have not listed the winking cat on the "problem list" since this symbol is already a very commercial one in the entire world. But the essence of the problem is still the same, and especially the fashion industry is pushing it sometimes way too far in my opinion, that's why the topic is so huge at the moment, hurting a lot of people and cultures, what is just so wrong. It is about companies or designers using, what should be only for inspiration, 1 to 1 designs in their collections without giving the much needed respect to the cultures which own the right to the original drawings, embroideries, murals or handmade works. It is about stealing and making money with the (often ancient) culture symbols and illustrations from the (mostly non-Western) cultures without giving back to their communities.


In a world where we fight to be heard as women, fight to create equality for all the humans, fight for thinking genderless ... we really don't want to hurt anyone.


But for me the line to cross is so so thin. I fell so insecure what to design, what to draw, feel scared to cross the line and to hurt somebody because of simply not knowing WHAT someone culturally hurts. I can learn, I want to understand and I want to make it better, but there are still so many topics we do not talk about and I do not know what hurts YOU, So please tell me, explain it to me, update my knowledge in case I do not know yet. Because then I will maybe have more creative freedom in my head again, knowing the limits, YOUR limits.


Since I love travel, love different cultures, I will always integrate cultural assets or designs in my illustrations and patterns. I will be more mindful of the use and try to give the story behind to create an educational part to it. And if I would ever want to use an embroidery for some fashion clothing - I will do my best to include some local artist in the process, so that everybody can profit from a sustainable and respected collaboration.


I guess one more thought might be "Leave no one behind" and keep on learning.

0 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All

My experience with Body Shaming

Body Shaming and the movement against it became a big topic, especially on Social Media. This is a sensitive thing to talk about, and I feel the need to add my thoughts as well. I am a naturally skinn

Thoughts about being a sustainable Nomad

Being a Digital Nomad connects you more to nature and to the cultures you visit and learn about, yet it brings some problems to our world we need to keep an eye on. -more flights + less car pollution

Becoming a Digital Nomad - or Nomadic Illustrator

I think it was in early 2019 when I first read online about the Digital Nomad lifestyle - quite late some of you might say. But yeah, I was working in a "normal" job in a "normal" office, commuting ev