In my last blog post, 'Babywearing: One Mum's Fall Down the Rabbit Hole', I referred to three Babywearing terms that had interested me: 'Shepherd's Carry', 'Candy Cane Chest Belt' and the 'Rebozo'. I had come across these words during various online tutorials. I did not know their meaning and to be honest, I'm still not sure what a 'Shepherd's Carry' is. I chose to use these words to illustrate my ignorance and to show how overwhelming any new lexicon can be.
I had researched a definition of rebozo to check spelling and context, but I was unaware of its controversial significance in social history and culture. Rebozo means:
".... a handwoven shawl specific to certain Mesoamerican countries. The colours, weaves, and patterns are specific to regions. A rebozo can accompany a person from birth (being carried in one) to death (being buried in one) and everything in between." [quoted from #takebacktherebozo, accessed 23rd May, 2017]
In North American and European communities, the term has been appropriated for commercial use, popularised by the German Babywearing wrap company, Didymos, who first used the term in 1972. Since then, this term has been simplified and redefined as a way to tie a short woven wrap from shoulder to hip; it has been commodified by 'Western' baby wearing businesses.
Why does this matter?
Such cultural appropriation is representative of Western European dominance, of assuming power and control over other cultures. Further examples can be found in the majority of exhibits at the British Museum, the Mercator Projection of the World Map and most 'Classic' English Literature, especially of the Romantic and Victorian period. Furthermore, most of our nation's richest's wealth, land and property has been procured by the money made from the slave trade. It's better to be aware of our perspective of the world and to be self-critical of our history; to understand the short and long-term effects of European colonial appropriation of land, languages and cultures.
In my post, I wrote "enchanted by the exotic double rebozo" to exemplify my ignorance. An old school friend drew my attention to the controversy and global campaign to #TakeBackTheRebozo. The irony is obvious: my ignorance has led me to confront the Euro-centric British English of my own lexis. My choice of "enchanted" and "exotic" exposes a lasting British preoccupation with faraway lands, fuelled by colonial fear and awe of the Other. As a mixed race grandchild of the "Orient" and a student of Postcolonial Literature, I really should have known better than to exoticise a whole culture and tradition. There was no need to equate an unknown, non-Anglo-Saxon term with enchantment, or the supernatural. I still have so much to learn about the world, myself and my privilege.
For a much better, more detailed and interesting read on this, please read this article: 'Not Your Idea: Cultural Appropriation in the Birthing Community' and follow the hashtag, #TakeBackTheRebozo. To know more about rebozos, read this article by Victoria Sadler, 'Made in Mexico Exhibition, Fashion and Textile Museum'.