I’ve been too busy (or lazy) to post much over the last few months, but this morning something made me simultaneously disgusted and amused at the same time. It was a little news item about Chanel (you know, the perfume people) featuring a rather overpriced boomerang on their website.
The HuffPost featured this little gem complaining about “cultural appropriation” over the boomerang, a quote from which is:
The National Museum of Australia credits souvenir boomerangs with helping to solidify the tool’s status as a national symbol. However, appropriation by way of slapping on a Chanel logo and charging an obscene amount of money is just wrong.
And here I am wondering: What’s wrong about it?
As it turns out, the boomerang is not exclusively Australian. By its generic name, “throwing stick”, it has been used by many ancient cultures over the millennia, as the Wikipedia article on Boomerangs points out:
Though traditionally thought of as Australian, boomerangs are also found in ancient Europe, Egypt, and North America. Hunting sticks discovered in Europe, seem to have formed part of the Stone Age arsenal of weapons. One boomerang that was discovered in Jaskinia Obłazowa in the Carpathian Mountains in Poland was made of mammoth’s tusk and is believed, based on AMS dating of objects found with it, to be about 30,000 years old. In the Netherlands, boomerangs have been found in Vlaardingen and Velsen from the first century BC. King Tutankhamen, the famous Pharaoh of ancient Egypt, who died over 3,300 years ago, owned a collection of boomerangs of both the straight flying (hunting) and returning variety.
No one knows for sure how the returning boomerang was invented, but some modern boomerang makers speculate that it developed from the flattened throwing stick, still used by the Australian Aborigines and other indigenous peoples around the world, including the Navajo in North America. A hunting boomerang is delicately balanced and much harder to make than a returning one. The curving flight characteristic of returning boomerangs was probably first noticed by early hunters trying to “tune” their throwing sticks to fly straight.
In short, complaints that Chanel has “culturally appropriated” something is just plain wrong!