I’m not going to lie, I love the latest trends of brightly colored prints, beaded jewelry and woven fabrics as much as the next girl. In fact, I just recently purchased one of my favorite new summer accessories–the Indego Africa for J.Crew cloth wrap bracelet, which supports female artisans in Rwanda.
The “tribal trend” is a bold, eye-popping look that I love incorporating into my colorful lifestyle. However, the word “tribal” really got me thinking. What exactly does “tribal” mean? The dictionary didn’t provide much help. “Tribal” essentially refers to a social group based on kinship, which essentially makes us all “tribal.” Historically, the word has had a fairly negative connotation that screams Colonialism.
So, what tribes or even what cultures are we talking about? I feel slightly uncomfortable that the media often associates the word “tribal” with African and/or American Indian savageness and creates an “us” and “them” mentality. The “tribal trend” takes cultural appropriation to a new level by lumping all non-western cultures together in the name of fashion. The Seventeen Magazine Project acknowledged this issue a few years ago.
Examining the “tribal trend” has been a true eye-opener for me on how prevalent cultural appropriation is in our daily lives. I never thought twice about being a Redskins fan, and I’ve never taken much offense to “oriental” inspired decor. However, as Dodai Stewart of Jezebel sums up, are there so many instances of cultural appropriation that we don’t even know what’s offensive anymore?
While I still love the “tribal” look, I think it’s time we find an alternative to the name. What are your thoughts?