Tuesday, July 02, 2013

How I let the internet eat my Sunday morning

It all started so innocently, when I checked headlines on a few news websites like the Guardian.  After reading a few stories in the World section, I cruised over to see the fashion articles in Life & Style.  I am often inspired by the colors and textures in men's fashions.  (Since I am not a size 0 amazon, women's fashion shows are useful only for inspiration anyway.)

That led to a gorgeous slide show of Trine Lindegaard's Spring-Summer 2013 collection for men. She incorporates hand-made textiles from Ghana in a way that highlights and honors the materials without appearing costume-y.

Photo courtesy of Trine Lindegaard via theGuardian.
I was particularly struck by some of Trine Lindegaard's comments from the accompanying article:
The mass clamour about how "so-and-so was inspired by Africa", together with a confusion between east and west African cloths and the question of whether it is a country or a continent*, only adds to the general malaise.

Animal print is another story. I use animal print all the time, as does Michael Kors; an instance of appropriation. There is no problem with appropriation, it's another word for inspiration; do we need the leopard's permission to use its spots?

The dialogue then becomes something along the lines of, how we appropriate a culture with due regard. Everyone knows what tartan is, but do they know its history? Is it essential they do? At the very least we all know that tartan is Scottish. We're not just going on about "how inspired we were by Europe this season".
Those are excellent points, especially in light of the things I learned about textiles and traditional knowledge in CopyrightX.  The short story is that prints on fabric are copyrightable expressions, and the treatment of traditional fabric patterns varies by country and date of creation.  Tread very, very carefully and remember that, just because something is legal, doesn't make it right.  Listen to your conscience and always follow the law.

Anyway, I visited Lindegaard's company's website, her blog and then found more articles about her work and thoughts.  She posted pictures of fabric production for her line here and here.  I was confused by her reference to these as Kita cloth, but then found Kita and Kente used interchangeably on another website.

A Nigerian roommate in college showed me an actual piece of high-quality Kente cloth.  It's not the printed stuff that often gets passed off as Kente cloth in the US.  It is woven of lustrous rayon or silk on narrow looms.  Then the strips are sewn together into fabric that is wrapped around the body on ceremonial occasions.

Lindegaard uses the real good stuff and her prices reflect the labor and care that went it its production.  One of my favorites mixes a front panel of Kita cloth with knit panels for a gorgeous sweater.  (I'm not sure why this online store mistakenly refers to it as embroidery.)
Photo courtesy of Trine Lindegaard's blog.

Google search took me to an article about Lindegaard's SS2013 collection in Shadders Africa, a fascinating site about African beauty and fashion. A comment left on a Shadders blog post about Sindiso Khumalo brought up another copyright issue:
Hello Shadders,

Great Post here.

We have seen your comment on our blog, and we take your concern seriously.
we also get accused of re-posting from other blogs/sites, so I can understand how such comments would be perceived.

However, we usually give full credit at the bottom of each post ( I'll have to make that more visible now).
Thank you for stopping by our blog.
We wish you all the best.

You guys are doing a fantastic job!

Cheers
RealTimeFix Blog
Is RealTimeFix a spam blog? Is their rebroadcasting of imagery from Shadders (even with a link back) copyright infringement or fair use? That depends on the countries where the websites are created and how much of the source material (what % of the total?  the heart of the material?) and how she used it (parody? commentary? educational?).  A certificate of completion from CopyrightX does not make me a lawyer and I can't pass judgement.  Well, I do have an opinion.  ;-)

I'm in the US, where fair use is more broadly defined than in most other countries.  When using images from other websites, I am careful to link back and give credit *AND* provide some commentary and contextual information to the original material that I borrowed to make a point.  If you simply repost someone else's content without adding something creative and new, then that is copyright infringement in any country.

As promised earlier, I changed the footer on my blog to reflect that I am allowing noncommercial reuses of my content (like using one of my photos to compare with something else in your post) with attribution and share-alike.  That means, you can share my stuff as long as you attribute it (in text and also with link backs to original content, please), don't use it commercially, and also allow non-commercial reuse of your content with the same restrictions.

If you run ads on your blog, you are a commercial user.  Commercial users should contact me for licensing information.  There are varying degrees of commercialism.  If you run ads to raise money for charity, I'm not going to charge you.

This license does not require non-commerical users to ask permission, but I think asking permission or giving a heads up is always good manners.  Email me.

* Aside regarding confusion whether Africa is a country or a continent:  I met someone shopping for African fabric at SAS last week who thought that Africa was a country in the same way that Australia is a continent and a country.  Well, they both start with A.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

1 comment:

  1. nice profile of the use of kente these days. i often bristle at the appropriation of these designs and, say, navajo weavings into commercial products---especially when done very cheaply and gratuitously. it's good to acknowledge those who do it with style and grace.

    and i'm very very sad about the geography goof.

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