"It still hurts." We need to talk about Adele's Instagram and cultural appropriation.

Cultural appropriation or appreciation? That’s the conversation taking place around Adele’s latest headline-grabbing Instagram photo.

In the image the 32-year-old Grammy winner is wearing a Jamaican-flag bikini top and has her hair twisted into Bantu knots.

From the caption posted alongside the image, Adele shows her support for the Notting Hill Carnival, an annual event which celebrates Caribbean culture and interracial tolerance. 

Due to be held on August 30 and 31, the event was instead held virtually this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The image has been labelled as cultural appropriation by a number of commenters and writers, mainly due to the fact that Adele chose to have her hair styled in Bantu knots, a traditional African hairstyle with a history that dates back hundreds of years.


On The Spill, Mamamia’s daily entertainment and pop culture podcast, host Kee Reece explained how Adele's intention to support the event feeds into how we should see the image, but her choice of hairstyle is still hurtful when you take into account its history. 

“It stems from the conversations we have been having lately around the Black Lives Matter movement, and just really holding people accountable for blatant borrowing of certain elements of Black culture," Kee said on The Spill.

“I had quite a few people send it to me and my first thought was ‘I really don’t want to cancel Adele because she had always felt like a safe ally for me'. 

"But now I’ve read into it and I do understand the context and why some people from the Caribbean culture are saying it’s appreciation because the Notting Hill Carnival is about unifying cultures.

“I understand why Adele wanted to align herself with that, but I also understand why people are saying that there was a healthy debate here to be had."


To listen to the full conversation around Adele's image, how money plays into the equation, how Black women's hair has been treated in Hollywood over the years and which celebrities have commented on the photo, listen to this episode of The Spill.

“There is so much cultural sensitivity around textured hair," Kee continued on The Spill. "Even with all the conversations we have around Black culture and the learning we are all doing, there is still so much pushback around Black hair that people don’t understand.

“For me, there is so much rich history in the hairstyles that people have taken over. It goes back into the history of hairstyles that have been discriminated against like cornrows, Bantu knots, braids and dreadlocks. 

“All these looks are still widely perceived today as not being appropriate at all in some cases. So when you are a person of colour, even if you understand that Adele has done this in celebration of Caribbean culture, it still hurts to see it.

“When you take those traditional hairstyles and you put them on a white person, it just sits differently.”

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