Renowned rapper and fashion mogul Kanye West recently found himself in hot water after allegations surfaced that he hosted a Nyotaimori feast to celebrate his 46th birthday. On 10th June, the rapper had a private party, which included his and ex-wife Kim Kardashian’s eldest daughter, North West, and his new partner Bianca Censori. Nyotaimori, also known as “body sushi,” involves serving sushi on a naked woman’s body. This event has stirred up controversy, with critics accusing Ye of cultural appropriation, objectification of women, and insensitivity.
Kanye West included the Japanese practice Nyotaimori at his 46th birthday party last night, which involves serving sashimi or sushi off the naked body of a woman. pic.twitter.com/c2XdnoCd9n
— Pop Crave (@PopCrave) June 11, 2023
Some critics argue that this traditional practice carries deep cultural significance and should be respected. They view West’s adoption of the event for his personal amusement as disrespectful and commodifying. Moreover, the presence of West’s 9-year-old daughter at the party has drawn criticism, with many considering it contradictory to his previous public remarks about parenting.
Another significant criticism centres around the objectification of women. Using human bodies as serving platters is seen as demeaning and dehumanizing, reducing individuals to mere objects. This incident has reignited discussions on the objectification of women and the need for consent and respect in cultural practices.
News of the alleged Nyotaimori feast spread like wildfire on social media, igniting a wave of public backlash. Many users expressed disappointment and anger at West’s perceived insensitivity and disregard for cultural boundaries. The incident has prompted broader conversations about the responsibilities of public figures to uphold cultural sensitivity and avoid appropriating practices that can perpetuate harmful stereotypes.
While this controversy highlights the negative aspects of cultural appropriation, it also emphasises the importance of understanding and appreciating cultural practices with respect and authenticity. Cultural exchange can be positive when approached with mutual consent, appreciation, and collaboration. It is crucial to differentiate between cultural appreciation, which involves understanding and honouring traditions, and cultural appropriation, which consists in borrowing elements without proper understanding or respect.
From his controversial statements and tweets to his alleged cultural appropriation and questionable behaviour, Ye has consistently made headlines recently. His erratic behaviour and controversial statements during his 2020 bid for the U.S. presidency raised concerns about his mental health and ability to lead. After a hospital visit for a psychiatric emergency in 2016, Ye revealed his bipolar diagnosis. In the years since, he has spoken about experiencing manic episodes, often tweeting and performing through them.
His public support of former President Donald Trump also sparked backlash, as many saw it as contradictory to the values traditionally associated with the hip-hop community. But his popularity completely toppled when his anti-semitic remarks resurfaced and he made statements seemingly in support of Hitler. In October 2022, he debuted his brand’s “White Lives Matter” shirts during Paris Fashion Week.
Owing to his controversies, multiple brands dropped Kanye as their ambassador – completely isolating him from the rest of the industry. Since then, even his more hardcore fans have questioned their stance on him.