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India Times

Cardi B’s depiction of Durga Maa: Paying homage or blatant cultural appropriation?

By:
Manisha Singh (@yourwishpoetry, @bulamentalhealth)

Award-winning rapper Cardi B is in hot water after being featured  on the cover of Footwear News earlier this week to promote the launch of her new sneaker collection “Club C Sneakers.” 

On the cover of the magazine, Cardi is depicted as the Hindu Goddess Durga Maa, and although some were appreciative of the photograph’s intended message of female power and liberation, other audiences across the globe are not taking it so lightly. 

The Goddess Durga, meaning “invincible,” is often illustrated with eight arms, and represents divine female power and energy. Each of Durga’s arms hold a different weapon which is used to fight against all forces of evil. 

As an entity that is respected and worshipped as the Goddess of Strength, by Hindus across the world, many took offense upon seeing the depiction of Durga Maa on the cover of Footwear News, with Cardi photographed in a strapless gown holding a shoe from her new sneaker collection with Reebok.

Although some say that this depiction of Durga Maa pays homage to Hindu culture and does not appropriate it, others have very differing views. 

Many flocked to social media sharing their outrage, explaining that this was a disrespectful portrayal of Durga Maa as she is never depicted “bare-bodied.”

Some also mention that “wearing shoes is prohibited inside a Hindu temple,” and are even more enraged that this shoot took place to promote Cardi’s new line of sneakers.  

What seemed like another milestone in Cardi’s career to celebrate her first ever line of shoes, quickly turned sour as audiences critiqued her for appropriating Hindu culture. 

Following backlash by audiences,  an apologetic Cardi took to Instagram to let her followers know cultural appropriation was far from her intent. In a video posted to her Instagram story she stated that, 

“The creatives told me I was going to represent a Goddess; that she represents strength, femininity and liberation, and that’s something I love and I’m all about. And I thought it was dope. If people think I’m offending their culture or their religion I want to say that was not my intent. I do not like offending anyone’s religion; I wouldn’t like it if someone did it to my religion."

According to Cardi’s apology, she agreed to the photoshoot as it aligns with her attitude towards female liberation, and was not meant to be offensive. In fact, Cardi consider herself to be a strong feminist stating that,

Anything a man can do, I can do. I can finesse, I can hustle.

With that being said, Cardi made sure to let her fans know that she will  not be making the same mistake again. In a closing statement on Instagram, Cardi stated that, 

“I wasn’t trying to be disrespectful; maybe I should have done my research. I’m sorry, I can’t change the past but I will do more research for the future,”

When it comes to showing appreciation to other cultures, it's important to make sure you are aware of what you are portraying. While Cardi admits she should have done more research on her part, and issued a genuine apology, it begs the question if this can be considered empowerment or appropriation?

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