Thursday, December 03, 2015

Fashion label slammed for 'disgusting' violation of sacred Inuit laws after using shaman's holy design for a £600 sweatshirt

If it's not copyrighted, anyone can use it.  There is no reason why primitive superstitions should be given special protection

A British fashion label has come under furious attack from a descendant of an Inuit holy man for selling £600 rip-offs of his sacred garment.

Awa, a shaman who practised the indigenous religion of Nunavut, Canada, made the black-and-white parka from caribou skin in the 1920s, and decorated it with holy symbols to protect him from drowning.

The piece of clothing, which has featured in anthropology text books and films about the Arctic region, is supposed to be unique to the shaman who created it, to preserve its spiritual powers.

But this year the design began to appear on designer sweatshirts by London-based Kokon to Zai.

Its 'Shaman Toweling Sweatshirt' features an exact replica of Awa's design, but rendered as an 'oversize' cotton sweatshirt and on sale for as much as £600.

The garment was on sale for months, but has been suddenly pulled from shelves after Awa's great-granddaughter noticed the lifted design and attacked the fashion house for trampling over Inuit culture.

Salome Awa, who works for CBC News in Iqaluit, Nunavut, said she was 'furious' to see the religious imagery used for profit, and that they had ignored the Inuit dictum not to copy sacred designs.

Speaking to the broadcaster, she said: 'It's a protection parka. Only him himself thought of it and wanted to design it, so he can save his life.

'These are sacred images that they are using. They are breaking the Inuit sacred laws of duplicating someone else's shaman clothing - for profit of all things.'

Kokon to Zai claims that it 'credited the Inuit community' in publicity when it launched the range - but the excuse did little to placate Mrs Awa, who insists the pattern is 'stolen'.

It featured at the London Collection Mens fashion show at the start of this year, where it was praised for being 'dystopian'.

In what designed Marjan Pejoski described as a fusion of Inuit culture with the aesthetic of Stanley Kubrick's A Clockwork Orange, skinhead models wore the sweatshirt with bowler hats and black leather boots.

According to The Times, Mrs Awa has spoken to lawyers and intends to sue the label for breach of intellectual property.

The paper reported that she said: 'It was disgusting to see a sacred design used as a sweater. We are a proud people and our ancestors and traditions are very important to us.'

The label issued an apology, but did not explain how it came across the design.



Anonymous said...

Superstition is very strong among some people.

Anonymous said...

Make sure you copyright your "sacred design" next time around, eh? By the way, I designed a logo and carved it on a leather jacket in the 50's to save me from getting hit by cars when I crossed the street. A very sacred item for me. Based it on a common fruit, but I painted stripes across it like a rainbow, and made it look like a bite was taken out. Oh, and there's the leaf at the top, too. Just called my lawyer...

Anonymous said...

Again it is all about being a victim which "native" people (meaning those who conquered and eliminated the preceding indigenous people but were the last conquers before European colonization)take to an art form,