MANGO apologises for 'slave-style' jewellery - but does it really need to?

If you object to ‘slave style’ jewellery (a steal at €24.99 in Mango), would you reject a French Colonial-style house? Or a Dutch Colonial or a Spanish Colonial?

by Rashmee Roshan Lall on 4 March 2013 16:15

If you object to ‘slave style’ jewellery (a steal at €24.99 in Mango), would you reject a French Colonial-style house? Or a Dutch Colonial or a Spanish Colonial?

All of these are architectural styles that developed in the US and they obviously refer to disparate imperialist adventurers and their record in the New World.

So why isn’t anyone protesting?

After all, they’re up in arms about Mango’s ‘slave style’ necklace. Apparently, French actresses Aissa Maiga and Sonia Rolland, and columnist Rokkaya Diallo, managed to get an online petition going to protest against the commercial tendency to make a “fashion” out of “slavery”.

At least 1,600 people felt enough righteous indignation as to sign. The petition, addressed to Mango’s public relations office, lamented that “this jewellery is meant to make an object of fantasy and fashion out of slavery.” It went on to protest at Mango’s insensitivity in “trivialising tragedies… that still today have an impact on millions of human beings across the world.”

Mango apologised as quickly as it could, blaming a “translation error” (the bauble was tagged “collier (necklace) style esclave” but “esclava”, in Spanish, simply means bangle or bracelet.

Even so, what to make of this epidemic of reflexive righteous rage? Slave-style jewellery has been around forever and it is exactly what the style started out as – the shackles of one human being owned by another. Do French Colonial-style houses trivialise colonialism? Does a British Raj-style menu reduce India’s experience of imperialism to Mulligatawny soup? Surely not.

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