Is it Cultural Appropriation to Wear Indigenous Designs?

- DEMI LYNCH -


For many of us white folks these past two weeks have been a big wake up call for us to recognise our white privilege.


These past two weeks we have come to the realisation that we need to be better allies with our Black brothers and sisters.


We need to educate ourselves more on Black culture, Black history, Black issues and Black communities.


One of the many ways we can show our support for Indigenous communities here in Australia is by supporting Aboriginal businesses.


But when it comes to businesses that sell clothing with the Aboriginal designs - can non-Indigenous people wear them ?


Or is that cultural appropriation?


Sianna Catullo is a Narungga woman and Chief Creative Officer of Clothing The Gap - an Aboriginal led clothing business in Victoria.


Sianna says the answer to this question is very complex.

Free The Flag Chief Creative Officer Sianna Catullo

"I'm not speaking for every brand but on behalf of our brand and the people we come in contact with - we want more Aboriginal designs out there in the world," she says.


"The more Aboriginal designs being worn out into the world the better because it creates more opportunities for people to learn, celebrate and educate themselves on Aboriginal culture."


She says for Aboriginal people seeing Indigenous designs out in the world makes them "feel more safe and included."


But Sianna strongly recommends doing your research before you buy products from a business selling Aboriginal art and designs.


"My biggest advice for anyone wanting to celebrate Aboriginal culture and wear Aboriginal designs is to do your research and know where you're buying from," she says.


"You need to find out the brand's purpose and know their intentions."


"When you see an Aboriginal business you assume they're Aboriginal owned, but there are a lot of brands out there that make products with Aboriginal designs that are not owned by Indigenous people."


She says if a brand you're looking to buy from is run by non-Indigenous people find out their intentions.


"Are they educating non-Indigenous people about Aboriginal culture?"


"Are they empowering and celebrating Aboriginal people?"


"Are they helping Indigenous communities?"


"Do your research and make sure they're doing it for the right reasons."


Lets take the brand WAM Clothing as an example on why you need to do your research.


The company sells clothing featuring the Aboriginal flag - so you would think by buying from this business you'd be supporting an Indigenous business.


Nope!


WAM Clothing is the only brand that can produce the Aboriginal flag onto clothing yet they are not an Aboriginal led business.


It holds an exclusive worldwide copyright license of the flag.


Clothing The Gap have even started a petition calling for this licensing agreement to be changed so Indigenous businesses across Australia can use the Aboriginal flag on their clothing.

Clothing The Gap is on a mission to FREE THE FLAG

So in a nutshell - if you are a non-Indigenous person wanting to wear Indigenous designs, you absolutely can but just do your homework first.


Right now it's all about educating ourselves and putting in the effort to support Indigenous communities and businesses.



ABORIGINAL LED BUSINESSES YOU NEED TO CHECK OUT NOW


Clothing The Gap


Haus of Dizzy


Ginnys Girl Gang


Burruguu Art


© 2020. Demi Lynch. The Nasty Woman Club