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white man wearing African print scarf

I’m not black, can I wear African print? 

by Amarachi Chukwu

Conversations on Cultural Appropriation and Appreciation 

We frequently encounter inquiries from potential customers who are not of Black descent, seeking guidance on whether it's appropriate for them to wear our products.

These inquiries often revolve around the complex topic of cultural appropriation, a dialogue we believe is essential for our brand to engage in.

Who is Nkiti designed for?

From the outset, we were aware that our primary audience was ourselves, and people like us.

As Nigerian, specifically Igbo, individuals dispersed across the diaspora, our focus naturally gravitated towards African and Black communities abroad. Like us, they sought contemporary means to incorporate African aesthetics into their daily attire.

While our clothing and designs are primarily targeted towards Black diasporic groups, it's important to note that individuals of non-Black backgrounds are welcome to engage with our brand and wear our products.

We invite everyone to this space we’ve created; born of our hybrid identification with nations in Africa, Europe and North America.

Laughing women in kente print t shirt dress

Understanding Appropriation vs Appreciation

“Cultural appropriation is the use of symbols, aesthetics, characteristics,etc of a culture without knowledge or acknowledgement of its origin and meaning.”

Cultural Appropriation more specifically is about power and the dynamic between dominant and marginalized communities.

Appropriation allows a dominant culture to take elements of an oppressed peoples’ culture without its context; whilst that same element is still negatively perceived on people of that culture e.g. braids, locs etc.

In reference to the African context specifically, the legacies of colonialism and slavery are important in understanding appropriation as it pertains to African and Black cultures. Therefore, care around engagement with the varying cultures within the African Continent is important.

“Cultural appreciation is the respectful engagement with cultural symbols and aesthetics that are not your own. It requires; respect, knowledge of the culture and context, and an invitation.”

In a global and technologically advanced world where access to other cultures is unprecedented, we have to be intentional about responsibly engaging with other cultures. We must recognize that not every culture wants outsiders to partake or wear the different symbols and aesthetics that are specific to them. People may invite you into their cultural context as a guest and the etiquette of that position requires the guest to respect the boundaries regarding what you do (or don’t) have access to.

Let's appreciate not appropriate

Being a Guest in Another’s Culture 

Nkiti, in merging basic western and African aesthetics, opens itself up for others to engage with us as we belong to and are influenced by both cultures.

As Nigerians in the diaspora, we have gone to many weddings where some guests who do not share the culture of the couple were invited to do so by wearing traditional clothes as guests in that context. 

chinese man in traditional African print wedding attire

This is appreciation and respectful engagement with cultural symbols and aesthetics that are not your own as opposed to desiring it and taking it without regard for the context and culture being co-opted.

Cultural Appreciation requires; respect, knowledge of the culture and context, and an invitation. As such, we invite everyone to our space, to engage with and buy our products whilst paying homage to our culture.



#1 Be invited 

  • Do not feel entitled to take 

#2 Pay homage to the culture of origin

  • Acknowledge that is its not your own,
  • Raise the profile of those who created it
  • If you are making a profit give back to the communities of this culture

#3 Engage with culture on more than an aesthetic level

  • Understand and respect the meanings and context

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Thank you for your article about cultural appreciate vs appropriation. It’s sad to say but I was never exposed to the beautiful cultures within Africa until recently. As an elderly white woman in the US I wasn’t exposed to African American culture until the 60s and 70s. Through this exposure I have recently had more access to African culture. Most USA information about Africa is in the news regarding war, poverty and disease. Thank you for sharing your beautiful art and clothing.

Vina Manghera-Jones

Lovely post to distinguish cultural appropriation vs cultural appreciation. I too was wondering whether it was appropriate to wear the clothing offered by nkiti designs and this makes it clear that it’s okay :)

Tara Rane Mandemaker

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