While Coachella is a landscape for music appreciation and bold fashion choices, the fads over the past few festival years have taken cultural appropriation to new heights.

“Cultural appropriation” can be defined as one adopting elements of a different culture, typically without consent. From Native American headdresses to kimonos to bindis, festival goers are walking a fine line between cultural appreciation and appropriation. Even something more mainstream as “tribal” or “aztec” prints are forms of cultural appropriation. We should all expose and immerse ourselves in other cultures to better understand and appreciate them, but when we pick and choose bits and pieces because they’re fashionable, without realizing the significance they hold, cultural appreciation seems like a pretty far-fetched idea.

Is it enough to educate ourself about another culture? Coachella bindis have been a hot topic recently. Does an in-depth understanding of South Asian culture and the significance of bindis mean that anyone can and should wear one? Even the purest of intentions and most earnest interest in a foreign or unfamiliar culture does not necessarily warrant a person’s right to practice a cultural or religious tradition outside of its original context. There’s a world of difference between a non-Hindu/non-South Asian going to a Hindu Indian wedding wearing a sari and bindi, and a festival goer wearing a bindi to achieve the ultimate hipster/hippie chic look.

First, let’s break down what bindis actually represent, because there seems to be a lot of confusion. Originally bindis were simplistic red dots that were the insignia of married woman. Some believe the bindi enhances concentration, helps preserve energy and represent the third eye. Bindis are commonly associated with Hindu rituals and traditions, but today many non-Hindu Indian women wear a bindi because of its origins based in Indian mythology.

South Asians, South East Asians, and Hindus are fighting back against what they consider cultural appropriation with the #reclaimthebindi movement. “Reclaim the Bindi” was coined by Desi stlye blogger Anjana Raj founder of Bangle Banger, whose fashion blog blends Indian & American identity and style. Growing in numbers, the “Reclaim the Bindi” movement is empowering women of South Asian/South East Asian or Hindu descent to take back the bindi by photographing themselves wearing bindis with captions and personal experiences that speak out against the appropriation.

This Coachella season, think twice before wearing something because it looks “exotic” and channel this intrigue into a real appreciation.

-Nishat Baig

Shares