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adele bantu knots Jamaica carnival cultural appropriation

Are Adele’s Bantu knots cultural appropriation or appreciation?

The singer’s look to celebrate Notting Hill Carnival is dividing opinions on social media

Thanks to COVID-19, Notting Hill Carnival – the world’s second largest carnival, that takes place on the streets of west London – was sadly cancelled for 2020, taking place virtually instead. 

Taking to social media to show how she was celebrating, Adele posted a picture on Instagram with the caption: “Happy what would be Notting Hill Carnival my beloved London,” while wearing a Jamaican flag-printed bikini and, more controversially, her hair styled in Bantu knots. The style, which initially originates from Africa, has been previously worn by Rihanna, Lauryn Hill, and Orange is the New Black’s Uzo Aduba – as well as being appropriated by the likes of Khloe Kardashian, Björk, and models at the Marc by Marc Jacobs SS15 show

Unsurprisingly after posting her look, the singer also found herself being accused of appropriating the look. “If 2020 couldn’t get anymore bizarre, Adele is giving us Bantu knots and cultural appropriation that nobody asked for,” said @MrErnestOwens on Twitter. “This officially marks all of the top white women in pop as problematic. Hate to see it.”

However, not everybody agreed, and some argued that the singer’s look was appreciation rather than appropriation – particulary as she’s paying homage to the origins of the style rather than erasing its roots. “How are non-Jamaicans getting mad at Adele when Jamaicans aren’t even mad themselves. This is normal carnival attire. Let Adele sing HELLO PON DI ADA SIDE,” said @amouraals. “Cancel culture is bullshit,” added @roughspoken, who claimed it was only white people who were mad. 

As has become the norm with social media controversies, there have been plenty of memes too – comparing her to RugratsCynthia doll and reworking her songs into reggae tracks. Adele is yet to address the controversy herself.