Adele reminded the world that the United Kingdom is an island last August when she posted a candid photo of herself wearing a full head of Bantu knots with a feather collar and Jamaican flag top. “Happy what would be Notting Hill Carnival my beloved London 🇬🇧🇯🇲,” she captioned the post, in honor of London’s annual carnival going virtual. Adele admits sharing a photo of herself in Bantu knots lacked “context.” For those outside of the wide-reaching African diaspora, Bantu knots are a traditional protective hairstyle that’s existed for over a century. Like locs, box braids, and cornrows, they hold significance in Black communities in spite of a fraught history of cultural appropriation. “There was so much going on in America at that point,” she told The Face magazine, referring to protests honoring George Floyd, who was killed by police violence last year. “I didn’t read the room and I fucking should have because I live in America. But my [Black] girlfriends here, they were like, ‘Are you all right? We’re not offended personally because we know you, but this is why [people are upset].’ My biggest question is why I felt the need to fucking post that when I’m so fucking private anyway. I was having such a lovely day with my friends in Jamaica, and that’s the vibe of Notting Hill Carnival for me, always has been. But I didn’t give that any context either.”
At the time, Adele did not respond to the viral photo and its subsequent memes, nor the online conversations debating appreciation and appropriation. “I could see comments being like, ‘the nerve to not take it down,’ which I totally get,” she told British Vogue in October. “But if I take it down, it’s me acting like it never happened. And it did. I totally get why people felt like it was appropriating.” Initially, she thought, “If you don’t go dressed to celebrate the Jamaican culture — and in so many ways we’re so entwined in that part of London — then it’s a little bit like, ‘What you coming for, then?’” However, the message has sunk in by now. “I was wearing a hairstyle that is actually to protect Afro hair,” she added. “Ruined mine, obviously.” Post-Bantu knot, Rich Paul–dating Adele’s new album, 30, drops this Friday. Black Twitter, are you tuning in?