So the Sana Safinaz lawn campaign 2018 recently emerged on social media and created a lot of frenzy amongst the social media Nazis. Before we talk about the whole subject and narrative I’d like to share the controversial images from the catalouge first:
Now coming to what’s so intimidating about these images? Humans being used as props, cultural appropriation etc etc
Okay so cultural appropriation? Lets discuss what cultural appropriation is according to the American law:
“Taking intellectual property, traditional knowledge, cultural expressions, or artifacts from someone else’s culture without permission. This can include unauthorized use of another culture’s dance, dress, music, language, folklore, cuisine, traditional medicine, religious symbols, etc. It’s most likely to be harmful when the source community is a minority group that has been oppressed or exploited in other ways or when the object of appropriation is particularly sensitive, e.g. sacred objects.”
Back to the Sana Safinaz catalogue, no picture at all suggests the slightest hint of oppression or unauthorised use of humans as ‘props’. In fact they look happy whilst at it. Since the Maasai tribe take a lot of pride in their rich cultural heritage, they consider it a great privilege to show around their land to visiting tourists which eventually also becomes a source of income for them.
For reference sake, the minority which supposedly is being targeted here are the Maasai tribe people of Kenya. A little brief on the Maasai;
The Maasai tribe (or Masai) is a unique and popular tribe due to their long preserved culture. Despite education, civilization and western cultural influences, the Maasai people have clung to their traditional way of life, making them a symbol of Kenyan culture.
Maasai’s distinctive culture, dress style and strategic territory along the game parks of Kenya and Tanzania have made them one of East Africa’s most internationally famous tourist attractions.
So Sana Safinaz just chose a famous tourist attraction and shot their lawn campaign there for the sake of bringing back home bits of Kenya. They engaged the locals in their campaigns which were paid for. I actually enjoyed their insta-stories and their interactions with the local people there, it felt as if I was there too. It was actually an experience and that is what designers should provide. AN EXPERIENCE. Otherwise lawn is just lawn, you can even shoot it in a studio (OMG am I being racist towards lawn).
All the hate speech targeted towards this campaign is a reflection of the racist mindset of the individuals themselves. Art knows no boundaries, it is beyond targeted racism and differences.In the words of ‘Jenni Avins’ : We have to stop guarding cultures and subcultures in efforts to preserve them. It’s naïve, paternalistic, and counterproductive. Plus, it’s just not how culture or creativity work. The exchange of ideas, styles, and traditions is one of the tenets and joys of a modern, multicultural society. Of course on the condition that no one gets hurt sentimentality.
Plus how can anybody overlook the following stunning images from rest of the campaign:
What a gorgeous shot is that!! Is this Cultural appropriation or appreciation? The later for sure.
How can you just ditch a whole team’s effort and hard work, sweat and blood over ONE mind-wrecking image? (incase you’re wondering it’s the umbrella one that created most frenzy!) just because it doesn’t fit your ideology of appropriation. We need to clear our own minds first if we want to appreciate art or let it flourish in our war-zoned piece of land. Please support our people when they try to think out of the box, please let art prevail. No art person or designer would ever intentionally want to harass or belittle any minority that too with such stunning and rich cultural diversity. Spare the hate.
Sana and Safinaz have done wonders for our small tiny fashion industry, especially being the pioneers in the regeneration of lawn. They have inspired hundreds of students and younger designers alike during their entire span. Year after year they churn out striking campaigns and people just can’t stop pointing fingers every single time but this time the hate is unvalidated. Give them a break and maybe yourself too! Till then Happy Spring!! xx