Saturday, May 25, 2024

Craft controversy

By Kiyanna Noel

Global Beading Crafts was hosted by the Desi Club and Club international March 7 in the H.U.B. The event intention was for students to come in and create waist beads and bracelets. 

However, this concerned another group of students on campus, which saw the event as cultural appropriation. African Unity: The African Student association released a statement March 4 claiming the event is not providing background information on the meeting behind waist beads and where they come from. 

“This event is being advertised as a waist bead making session, with little to no information about the origin or kind of waist beads being referenced, this creates confusion as different cultures have different types of Jewelry they refer to as ‘waist beads.’ Waist beads are not a fashion statement,” African Unity wrote in an Instagram post. “Every part of Africa and the world have specific meanings and importance that they attribute to waist beads. They are not worn for adornment or body modifications. There are culturally rooted reasons why Africans wear waist beads, and seeing them being referenced to as ‘adornments’ comes off as our culture being disregarded.”

Quin Lee, an intern at Plattsburgh’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion office, wrote a response to the concerns brought to light by African Unity.

“I was trying to honor other cultures through a beading event, but these beads have a religious and cultural significance that goes far beyond what I had imagined. I apologize for treating this as a trivial crafts event. We are replacing all flyers and social media posts with the graphic below. The event is now titled a beading crafts event. As part of it we will view a presentation of beading crafts and practices from around the world,” Lee wrote. 

The event was then geared into a more educational bracelet making event for students of different cultural backgrounds to come together and explain the meaning behind waist beads, as expressed by African Unity. 

By making a turn around the event turned from cultural appropriation to appreciation in order to pay its respect to African and Asian culture when it comes to bead jewelry. 

Mia Squires, a freshman majoring in Special Education, had no idea about the situation between the DEI office and African Unity. Instead, she was excited to make bracelets and learn about cultures. 

“We should do more of this,” Squires said. “I want to learn more about Asian culture.”

By leading a conversation about understanding the history and communicating clearly, students and staff were able to understand the meaning behind beads while enjoying bracelet making. The event turned out to be a learning experience for all in attendance about the history behind beads and what they mean globally.

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