Gear guide: multi-ethnic cloaking backpacks
I once bought a plane ticket to Brazil with an open-ended return. I didn’t know much about Brazil except it was tropical, exotic, and Rio was the temporary home of Fletch, my favourite detective from the Gregory Mcdonald novels.
Brazil sounded sexy as hell, and I wanted my trip to go well. A friend used to live there, so I asked her what I should wear to blend in with the Brazilians in Rio.
She laughed at my freckled, bright-white skin and my 6’2” frame.
“Don’t worry,” she said, “There's NO WAY you’ll be mistaken for a local. Just keep your money in your shoe.”
I thought of my earnest attempt to blend in when I saw this new multi-packaged backpack. Or should that read ‘backpacks’?
Ethnotek’s travel backpack comes with a variety of interchangeable ethnic prints, depending on the country you are visiting. You can choose from a variety of removable handmade prints that hail from artisans in Ghana, Guatemala, India, or Vietnam. You’ll be like a chameleon that changes colours to hide from predators.
Here's the company's stop-motion video that demonstrates how they work. According to Ethnotek’s website, they “scour the earth in search of the most vibrant and interesting hand-made fabrics that have a deep cultural heritage and story behind them…Once you have a bag, you can continually update the style.”
First off, I think it’s a shame when companies scour the earth. Scouring is when you clean or brighten the surface of something by rubbing it hard, typically with an abrasive or detergent. And you could argue that’s exactly what Ethnotek is doing. They’re whitewashing the planet.
Now, I’m certain that wasn’t their plan, as Ethnotek's corporate mission statement is rather noble and high-minded. In their ‘About Us’ section, the company says “the ETHNOTEK® tribe is made up of a small group of creative people with a passion for world travel and dedication to the mission of spreading the word on cultural appreciation and awareness.”
1) well-meaning companies sure love their run-on sentences
2) are corporation really tribes? I guess it makes sense in a ‘No, it doesn’t make any sense’ kind of way. Corporations are NOT tribes unless they all sleep in the same hut, cut each other's hair, raise each other's children, share each other's food, and literally defend their tribal borders by throwing rocks, spears, bones, and garbage [I hear Facebook does this at their head office].
3) when I read the phrase ‘cultural appreciation’, I think ‘cultural appropriation’
Prices range from $99 for the basic boring black packsack, $129 and $149 for the Ghana and Vietnam cloaking devices, I mean 'fabrics', and $189 for the fancy pink fabric cover made by women of the Rabari tribe in the Kutch desert region of Gujarat, India.
Will you wear this backpack on your next trip to Ghana, Guatemala, India, Vietnam, or the mall?
-- Ken Hegan
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