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Not Everyone Is Happy With Pharrell After He Released A New Shoe Collection Inspired By The Holi Festival

Is this cultural appropriation?

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After releasing his “Hu Holi” footwear and apparel collection, Pharrell Williams is under fire for religious insensitivity. 

The Hu Holi collection is named after the Holi festival, aka Festival of Colors, which is celebrated within Hindu communities across the world. The festival predominately takes place in countries like Nepal, Bangladesh, Pakistan and India, as well as other communities with a large Indian population. Lasting a night and the following day, the festival begins with religious ceremonies being performed over a bonfire, where believers pray for their internal evils to be burnt away. The next day celebrates the triumph of good over evil and is celebrated with people in the street who smear bold, powdered colors on each other. Each color has a meaning, with green representing peace and yellow symbolizing new beginnings. The festival also represents the end of winter and the beginning of spring. 

The "Don't Do It" singer's collection is based on the color scheme of the festival and its bold celebration performed by its people. 

To promote the collection, Adidas released a video capturing the mega producer's first experience celebrating Holi and learning about its cultural significance. In the video, Pharrel's guides explain to him the importance of the festival and gently rub the colors on his cheeks and clothes. With each other, the guides throw the colors at one another in the typical celebration format and encourage Williams to do the same, which he declines. 

In response to the collection and video, Rajan Zed, the president of the Universal Society of Hinduism, has requested that Adidas CEO and Williams both issue an apology for what he believes is a “highly insensitive” use of their religious beliefs and culture, Okay Player reported.

“Pharrell Williams and Adidas should have done some homework before taking Hinduism concepts frivolously and using these to make a fashion statement and sell shoes for mercantile greed, some of which contain leather,” Zed said, according to Okay Player. “Inappropriate usage of Hinduism concepts or symbols or imagery for commercial or other agenda was not okay as it might be painful to many devotees. Hindus were for free artistic expression and speech as much as anybody else if not more. But faith was something sacred and attempts at trivializing it hurt many followers.”

Zed argues that aiming to profit on a group’s religious beliefs is inappropriate and a form of cultural appropriation. 

However, a spokesperson from Adidas told the Independent:

"Hu was founded upon the principles of unity, equality, humanity, and colour with an intention to explore humanity and celebrate diversity around the world. Together Adidas Originals and Pharrell Williams use the platform to help tell stories of others from around the globe."

View the Adidas promo video below:

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