This Delhi-Based Store Is Receiving A Lot Of Backlash For Misrepresenting Traditional Costumes From Nagaland. Why Are We So Racist Against Our Own?
While the whole world in fighting systemic oppression of a particular race, we are too busy denying that it exists in our country as well. Yes, denial, a classic Indian move. Oh don’t shake your head. Have you ever noticed the way people from the north-east are treated everywhere else in our country? They are mocked, looked down upon and often asked to go back to China. Since no one has bothered to actually find out more about their culture and their ways of life, our system is trained to discriminate against them because they look a lot different than we do.
This mentality of ours against people from the northeast has reflected in not only our behaviour towards them but also caused us to assume a lot of things about them that are not true. Let’s take a look at how they are represented in the fashion industry, for instance.
Everyone knows that our fashion industry is not perfect, it’s not even close. Cultural appropriation and stereotyping are highly prevalent and what is sadder is that barely anyone even notices it when it happens. The incident that I want to discuss today shows just how much people from the northeast are misrepresented in the fashion industry.
You see, a store in Delhi has come under the scanner for selling animal print outfits under the name of “Tribal Nagaland Costumes”. People are pointing out that the ethnic outfits of Nagaland look nothing like what is being sold.
The store is called “Kaku Fancy Dress”, and is selling a leopard-printed top and skirt, and marketing it as the tribal outfit from Nagaland. Needless to say, a lot of people took offence to this blatant misrepresentation.
The seller was using e-commerce websites like Flipkart, Amazon and Snapdeal to sell these products. They also had very problematic and culturally offensive listings for Mizo and Assamese traditional outfits.
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Recently, it has come to our notice that certain sellers on Amazon, Flipkart and Snapdeal are selling grossly…
This was originally called out by a Facebook page called Decolonial Indigenous Memes. They pointed out the obvious discriminatory and ignorant tone of the listing. In their post, they put the leopard-printed outfit that was on sale alongside a picture of what a traditional outfit from Nagaland actually looks like. There is a huge difference between the two. You can clearly see why they would be so offended by this.
The caption of that post read, “Recently, it has come to our notice that certain sellers on Amazon, Flipkart and Snapdeal are selling grossly misrepresenting racist “costumes” as Northeastern traditional attire (Naga, in this case). Our culture, our attires and our traditional symbols have already been reduced to a commodity which the mainland can exoticize. Such false and offensive representations are nothing new, yet these go on unchecked in the mainstream. It is time for indigenous people to be assertive so we can stop this nonsense.”
In the name of Naga traditional outfits, apart from the leopard-printed dress, Kaku Fancy Dress was also found selling a variety of inaccurate clothing including feathered headgears and bizarre dresses.
After it was called out, many angry northeastern took to social media to express their displeasure.
These do not even belong to any Naga tribe, why even include “trible” or “Nagaland”? However the bigger issue is the appropriation of tribal attire and culture. We do not exist for your fetish or for your fancy dresses and Halloween costumes. @Flipkart pic.twitter.com/IWCSioT1er
— Kekhrie Yaotsu (@KekhrieYaotsu) July 8, 2020
So this Delhi based company called Kaku Fancy Dresses is passing off strange leopard prints clothes as Naga Attire, also being sold in Amazon, Flipkart etc. They have also misrepresented dresses of other NE states. I will try to call them tmrw and TALK. pic.twitter.com/2m5g8mYjxk
— Manoranjan Pegu (@manoranjanpegu) July 8, 2020
@Flipkart This is not what my traditional attire looks like. I am offended my traditional attire is represented this way. What is this? animal print ?"NON" of Naga tribes have attires with animal print.
I request you to remove this misinterpretation of my culture and my attire. pic.twitter.com/YUJWZq4eoo
— Min Dynasty⁷ (@SamtheShooketh) July 8, 2020
Hi @Flipkart, These are not even close to what Naga/Mizo traditional attire looks like. These need to be taken down & the seller should consult with experts from northeast India before uploading any tribal “Fancy Dress”. This amounts to cultural appropriation & misrepresentation pic.twitter.com/aE2fXFVpRl
— aloli achumi (@aloleeeee) July 8, 2020
— Chichanbeni Kithan (@Chichan_Beni) July 8, 2020
— Assam Bhumiputro (@AxomBhumiputro) July 8, 2020
It’s this kind of ignorance that makes us no better than those promoting systematic racial oppression against African Americans in the USA. The blatant misrepresentation is no joke even if they are being sold at a fancy dress store. Deny it as much as you like it won’t change the fact that cultural appropriation is a very common phenomenon and the people from the northeast are, unfortunately, always at the receiving end.
Sometimes, ignorance is not bliss. Sometimes, it’s downright offensive.