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In detail: knowing where something comes from

Lately I see the whole cultural appreciation and cultural appropriation discussion rise up again. It is a good thing we look at what we use from a culture and how that is viewed. And it doesn’t matter which culture and which period you take inspiration of, it needs to be done respectfully.

I myself also had some difficulty on where to draw the line of appreciation and appropriation. Once you start thinking about it, you don’t stop. After a masterclass with Lidewij Edelkort, she had a very good way of formulating it:

If you really studied the culture, it’s design, it’s purpose and it’s history and you can respectfully integrate the inspiration from it in your own design, it can only mean you appreciate it. If you blindly copy/paste it for example on a polyester cloth and sell it for peanuts, you are appropriating it.

Of course there will always be the remark of ‘you are not from that culture, so you should not touch it’. I think outsiders should watch, learn, understand and tell the story again. That is how history works. We take that what inspires us and give it to the next watcher and listener. Seeing something in another’s culture, copying it for cheaper in lesser quality and make an insane amount of money from that is not okay. You are then abusing the culture and telling a different story.

Due to all this, I thought it would be a good idea to start writing down the history, inspiration and my take on certain design I make. These are the in detail posts. There is room to correct me, if you can deliver a great resource which states something else than I did.

Also, if you find something from a designer/creator and you do not feel okay with it, check out the designer/creator to see is they have something to say about it. Maybe it has a backstory and you didn’t understand it at first. And if you can’t find that, ask them why they used some cultural elements. Don’t yell appropriation right away.

I hope you all will like the posts on the background of my designs.