Agnez Mo accused of cultural appropriation over
hairstyle 1

Indonesian singer Agnez Mo has received some negative comments regarding her new hairstyle.

The singer was first seen wearing braided hair on her Instagram post on July 22.

In a July 30 post, Agnez can be seen with her braided hair, a cream-colored one-piece bodysuit and a combination of traditional and modern accessories. She stands between two women who wear their natural hair and don traditional fabrics.

The caption reads, “#Diamonds #WeAreIndonesians. We’re wearing one of many Indonesian traditional outfits (incl. accessories), from Papua (east side of Indonesia).”

Instagram user @insosbosra commented on the post: “Bodysuit is not from Papua. What you are wearing is not only disrespectful but it’s a very sloppy job of representation. You are making it about you by being in the middle and being the only one wearing a provocative outfit. Please do a better job of presenting Melanesians and our culture.”

On Aug. 11, Twitter user @awkvert said, “Sweetie @agnezmo we’re proud of your success but we need to talk about your exploitation of black culture (no, you are NOT black just because you live in the same country as Papuans) and embarrassing us by wearing braids in front of Meghan thee Stallion herself.”

In another tweet, the user said, “…for her to show up wearing it in front of an African American woman, whose culture is still oppressed and devalued for aesthetic purposes by non-black people, it is appropriation.”

Another Twitter user, @MuslimahAngry, said, “If the people who are of the culture are explaining that it isn’t appreciation but instead is appropriation then perhaps you should listen to them? She’s using Black culture to be popular, that isn’t appreciation” in a reply to a tweet saying “it’s about cultural appreciation not cultural appropriation, thanks”.

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Since July 31, Agnez posted 16 Instagram photos and videos of herself sporting braids, including a video when she appeared to be in the shooting location of American rapper Meghan Thee Stallion’s music video and pictures of Papuans in their traditional attire and Balinese dancers.  

In what appeared to be a statement by Agnez responding to accusations of cultural appropriation, she posted a picture on Monday that depicts the Sentani Lake Festival in Papua where the hair-braiding took place.

The caption reads: “The braiding of hair in Papua is a tradition that started from the hand-weaving of a ‘noken’ bag. Hence, the Papuans actually refer to hair-braiding as ‘hair-weaving’ or ‘ANYAM RAMBUT’ in Indonesian language. …..There are now many ways of hair-braiding and for many different reasons. This tradition has become very popular in Papua that it turned into an annual competition at Jayapura. Isn’t it amazing how diverse yet similar we are as people? This is what my culture taught me. Unity in diversity.”

According to , cultural appropriation is “when somebody adopts aspects of a culture that’s not their own. A deeper understanding of cultural appropriation also refers to a particular power dynamic in which members of a dominant culture take elements from a culture of people who have been systematically oppressed by that dominant group.”

Several celebrities have been accused of cultural appropriation, including Kim Kardashian who wore braids on several occasions, singer Selena Gomez who wore an Indian-inspired dress and a bindi in a 2013 performance and fashion designer Marc Jacobs who sent out all-white models with dreadlocks in his 2016 fashion show.

An article on the website on braids and cultural appropriation featured braid stylist Tamara A., who commented, “As women of color, our hair has been the most controversial and socially unacceptable image.”

She said, “Everyone gets inspired by other cultures; it’s a common cultural exchange, but it becomes an issue when that exchange is an unfair one and our history and customs are ignored.”

Interviewed for the same article, hairstylist Stasha Harris commented, “…there’s no rule book when it comes to braids. Anyone can wear them… However, before you sport them, pay credit where credit is due; be open for dialogue and education; and always use your voice to make a political statement that’ll last far longer than any hairstyle.” (wng)