Really good points made here, Lela. And thank you for bringing them to the table. I did mention at the beginning of the article that there are in fact very valid issues — I did not mention every single one of them, so I am glad you bring this up. And you have put it quite well here. Sometimes people with structural power (in this case white people) will profit of our works — and will get a lot more credit for it than people of colour do. But I do not think the solution to that is so much to tell people to stop consuming something — because it puts responsibility and blame on individuals — when we should be fighting the powers that be — doing things to change the structure that makes it such that the work of people of colour is invalidated unless white people validate it. I am not asking for that particular aspect of the conversation to stop. But I am saying there needs to be more nuance here.
In any case, I do not see it as a point of contention if a white woman learns how to apply henna well, and makes use of that skill — the issue here is not that, the issue occurs when her work gains recognition at the expense of a brown woman’s work. The solution then is to change things in a direction that the brown woman’s work isn’t undermined, and not that a white woman not profit of her skills. You know what I am saying?
For now, I am gonna focus more on the fact that henna was largely such a class thing in my home country Pakistan — and good henna designs were so not for you if you were poor. I care about making these kind of things more accessible, and hopefully one day henna becomes an art that is enthusiastically learned by people around the world. And becomes more and more accessible for everyone.
Remember also, that power dynamics are different in every given society in the world — and in many of these contexts it isn’t always white people who are the most powerful. In the context of Pakistan, it’s Punjabi sunnis who have the most privilege — so how do we decide and who doesn’t? Remember also that cultures even within a country and region vary greatly.
Besides, who draws the line for who is allowed to consume and sell what? Who gets to be the authority on that? I am wary of people who try to be the gatekeepers for that kind of thing — almost as though they speak for everyone in their culture and decide what belongs to whom. Also, often times, the concept of cultural appropriation is used to monitor and police minority communities. An issue that is covered very well in this article by Kenan Malik:
I hope my comment makes sense :) And thank you for your feedback and perspective.