Monday, February 20, 2017

Can we still speak of cultural appropriation?

Not a week goes by without another "cultural appropriation" scandal.
Marc Jacobs does Afro?
Supreme does an Obama collection inspired by African visuals?
Karlie Kloss goes geisha for Vogue?
The list goes on and on.
Well, Vetements is doing hoodies and I see no one reminding us that the hoodie originated from the US (in the company that is now Champion). It is to note that Vetements is essentially a European design collaborative.
Algeria-born French couturier Yves Saint Laurent had a very famous take on the safari jacket which was invented (with not so specific origins) for tropical climates and made popular by the British elites.
How about this? The suit as we know it today is a British invention. Yet, tailors all over the world made it.
Bandanas as a tool we know them for stared with Martha Washington (yes wife of George) even if their name came from Sanskrit and their dot-design from Persia, and now French luxury house Hermes did a collection of high end silk bandanas.
Now let's go for the most known cultural appropriation ever - no, not the French fries which to begin with originate from Belgium - but rather... The croissant.
The croissant is what the Austrian baked to commemorate the victory over the Turks in 1683, it was called the "kipferl" - German for "crescent" which was the symbol of the Turks! When Austrian princess Marie Antoinette married the king of France Louix XV, the pastry got imported to her adopted land and got its current name. If this is not cultural appropriation, I don't know what is!
Interestingly, I see no one up in arms when formerly colonial cultures diffuse their culture(s) by osmosis to other (colonized?) nations. Women in Africa have been known to put powders (with very bad side effects) to bleach their skins and therefore become more "white".
It seems that "educating the savages" and therefore cultural norms' transmission to them is quite acceptable, But borrowing signals and codes the "locals' culture" is not permitted. Let us examine some cases of spreading Euro-American social norms, or making other cultures look pitiful and ignorant by going through examples of racism in children-related materials (going back to an article published on 14/11/2013):

"When racism is talked about in cartoons the most famous example is usually Tintin au Congo. Here Tintin, like a good colonialist teaches the children about their country... "Belgium!.

Or Tom and Jerry in black face....
But it is interesting, the ubiquitous oh-so-innocent Martine gets left out of it. When for once a black character made an appearance, it was "Cacao" her doll, who throughout the story "Martine en voyage" actually kept carrying Martine's luggage and so forth.
In later editions Cacao was renamed Annie, but how much can you change a book? After all, Cacao/Annie was still "left holding the bag"... Or the luggage in this case."
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What the above examples shows, is that non-white cultures are there either to be educated/socially improved (example 1), berated/derided/laughed at (example 2), or eventually to serve and attend to the needs of the Caucasian character (example 3).
Cultural appropriation is seen as the reverse side of the coin for racism. You hate the others, or you outright steal them ("we should have kept the oil" anyone?). Whereas I am not denying this theory, in today's world, where boundaries (if not geographical, at least theoretical) are in flux, can we still talk of cultural appropriation?
Raf Simons - a Belgian designer - just took the helms of Calvin Klein and aside from the Americana-filled CK show, his own eponymous brand delivered such a soulful, romantic, heart-felt love poem to NY. city, showing it as a state of mind more than anything else. And his I (heart) NY as per the Milton Glaser logo (whereby he twisted the famous logo and put it on jumpers) was - by all means - a case of appropriation. But no one dared suggest such a thing. Why? Maybe one cannot appropriate/steal codes coming from "predominant" cultures. Only those coming from "lesser"/marginalized cultures can be so.
Even the definition of what a culture or subculture is tends to be in question. Supreme and Louis Vuitton just collaborated together, after a cease and desist case which went back to the year 2000. Supreme is the skater brand par excellence. But are skaters a subculture? Can be take their codes and incorporate them in bigger fashion/luxury perspective? 
To go back to bandanas, which were codes for sexual fetishes and preferences among homosexuals in the 70s and 80s. However, ask any kid who grew up in the 80s, the items were issued en masse by Gap (and other mainstream retailers) and they transcended the subculture and became a common household-fashion-decorative item for the whole decade and their sub-cultural meaning was eventually lost.
Do you have to be a biker or a BDSM practitioner to have a leather item in your closet? Once more this calls to redefining what a culture/subculture is before jumping on the "appropriation" labeling. 
In 2011, and following United States former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice saying she had a "mac and cheese" for Thanksgiving, white televangelist Pat Robertson wondered: "What is this mac and cheese? Is that a black thing?”
Mac and cheese is simply, "macaroni and cheese" - nothing black about it. and let it be known that baked macaroni and cheese was invented by none other than (white US founding father) Thomas Jefferson (yes, that Thomas Jefferson). So again, when ethnicity, genders, cultures and subcultures themselves are at flux and resist definition, how can we speak of usurping them and therefore appropriating them? Androgynous looks currently flood the runways, and Balanciaga just issued a massively high-heeled platform shoe - for men.
On that last note, women culturally appropriated men's cultural codes by using high heels. Yes, high heels were invented for men!

Archewallogy 6 (20/40) or how Beirut talks through its walls.

Archewallogy (or the fusion of archaeology and wall) is an oblique way of seeing the city. Images (usually 4) are juxtaposed next to one another around a central theme to illustrate it in as many angles as possible. Religion, lust, sex, violence, politics, fanaticism, music, nights out, liberalism, social issues, graffiti, tagging, ruins, edifices, love, scribbles, and the list continues... All conjoin each other in a city that I once described as snake that needs to shed its skin to survive.
If you wish to consult earlier Archewallogy books about Lebanon here there are: Archewallogy(RE)Archewallogy(TRI)ArchewalogyArchewallogy 4 or againstArchewallogy V (for vandetta). In addition, you might enjoy Archewallogy San FranciscoArchewalogy Amsterdam and Archwallojistanbul.
Other publications can be found on this link.
I will be releasing the 6th and 7th volume bit by bit for you! Hope you will enjoy them as much as I did documenting them.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Panadol makes germs not only human, but also "effeminate"

Now that's a new tone. Germs in advertising, are either portrayed in microscopic format (think Dettol), or in invisible ways yet we see their effect (think regular over-the-counter medicine ads), or alternatively illustration/animation (think Strepsils or Listerine).
So humanizing the microbe is a new way in advertising, and making the microbe effeminate is even newer. I am not even sure why this has been the case - microbes are always portrayed as "males" when drawn/animated to capitalize on how they might hurt us. So I am a bit puzzled. In the same ad, Panadol is seen as a "bouncer" - incredibly tall, head shaved, with a fanny bag to top it all, oh - and very muscled. Panadol ran a very nice ad earlier for the same Cold+Flu sub-brand, so why change what works is beyond me. You can see the new ad here.

Archewallogy 6 (19/40) or how Beirut talks through its walls.

Archewallogy (or the fusion of archaeology and wall) is an oblique way of seeing the city. Images (usually 4) are juxtaposed next to one another around a central theme to illustrate it in as many angles as possible. Religion, lust, sex, violence, politics, fanaticism, music, nights out, liberalism, social issues, graffiti, tagging, ruins, edifices, love, scribbles, and the list continues... All conjoin each other in a city that I once described as snake that needs to shed its skin to survive.
If you wish to consult earlier Archewallogy books about Lebanon here there are: Archewallogy(RE)Archewallogy(TRI)ArchewalogyArchewallogy 4 or againstArchewallogy V (for vandetta). In addition, you might enjoy Archewallogy San FranciscoArchewalogy Amsterdam and Archwallojistanbul.
Other publications can be found on this link.
I will be releasing the 6th and 7th volume bit by bit for you! Hope you will enjoy them as much as I did documenting them.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Sandwich w Noss, funny advertising w noss!

In advertising we say one ad is luck, two is a coincidence, three is a campaign. A dozen ads? That's bloody genius! If you look at the Sandwich w Noss page on Facebook you would be bombarded by a tone of glorious, funny, witty ads which talk to everyone - even if a bit more focused on millennials and their idioms.  There was even one which was a "thank God no one was hurt from our colleagues at the Costa Cafe" (after recently a suicide bomber tried to go in there!). As I aid, having one nice ad is an oddity, having a series is truly a wonder in today's standards. Well done and here's to more of it!

BLC bank - loans and acrons....

Take X amount and pay Y amount. The ad is so straightforward for a second I confused it with a loan ad by (competitor) Byblos bank - same direct statement, same visual reference to the season, same overall grid. But then it struck me! There was this line that said "without salary domiciliation and without ballout!" - ballout is Arabic word for "acorn" - but also for "whatever" - so the line simply says "without salary domiciliation or whatever". That's called taking a leaf out of someone else's playbook and upstaging it! BLC makes loans more palatable -even if more risky for them.

Archewallogy 6 (18/40) or how Beirut talks through its walls.

Archewallogy (or the fusion of archaeology and wall) is an oblique way of seeing the city. Images (usually 4) are juxtaposed next to one another around a central theme to illustrate it in as many angles as possible. Religion, lust, sex, violence, politics, fanaticism, music, nights out, liberalism, social issues, graffiti, tagging, ruins, edifices, love, scribbles, and the list continues... All conjoin each other in a city that I once described as snake that needs to shed its skin to survive.
If you wish to consult earlier Archewallogy books about Lebanon here there are: Archewallogy(RE)Archewallogy(TRI)ArchewalogyArchewallogy 4 or againstArchewallogy V (for vandetta). In addition, you might enjoy Archewallogy San FranciscoArchewalogy Amsterdam and Archwallojistanbul.
Other publications can be found on this link.
I will be releasing the 6th and 7th volume bit by bit for you! Hope you will enjoy them as much as I did documenting them.