African Culture – Appropriated, Appreciated, Exploited or Shared?



5:00 pm - 6:00 pm





Imitation is said to be the sincerest form of flattery.  But it can also be intellectual property theft.  Throughout history, cultures have influenced one another.  But the relationship has often been an unequal one reflecting the shifting political and cultural balance of power.  Cultural repression has been as common as cultural co-option, and cultural appropriation can rob cultural expression of both its meaning and it’s just reward. 


In the post-colonial world, Africa’s incredible abundance of cultural expression, from music and art to fashion and food, has become increasingly prominent on the global stage.  But often it has been appropriated by others and repackaged, either intentionally or unintentionally, for new audiences and financial profit.


Within its definition, cultural appropriation encompasses discussions around the uneven power dynamics in which a more dominant culture adopts an element of another culture in order to lay claim to it, strip it of its original cultural context, or to profit off of its use. Cultural appropriation is increasingly topical as lesser-known artists find their work reproduced or imitated by those in positions of hyper-visibility, especially through digital and social media. Where is the line between ‘appropriation’ and ‘appreciation’? How can we critically examine the parameters of what it means to ‘collaborate’, ‘inspire’ or ‘steal’?


The Royal African Society and the Firoz Lalji Centre for Africa will be sitting down with figures from across artistic and academic spheres to discuss the topic of cultural appropriation. Reflecting on examples and experiences navigating misgivings, the event will ask how we can move away from unequal relations towards a space of equal collaboration.



Prof. Madhu Krishnan – Professor of African, World and Comparative Literatures, Department of English, University of Bristol


Patrick Sam – Chairperson of the National Arts Council of Namibia

Dr. Leyla Hussein OBE – Psychotherapist/Social Activist

Dudu Sarr – Youssou Ndour Management

Pumela Salela – Country Head for the United Kingdom (UK) under Brand South Africa, the custodian of the South

This event will be live-streamed via Zoom. The link for the Zoom webinar will be sent to all those that have registered via Eventbrite 2 hours before the stated start time.


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