Columbusing, or the art of [white people] “discovering” something [people of color do] that is not new, ought to be declared the term of 2014. It probably will in 2015, if it manages to get itself Columbused by next year. Something that did recently get Columbused is twerking. Those who only pay attention to mainstream white culture associate it with Miley Cyrus, erasing its long history among those of African descent.
As Christiana Mbakwe says in The Origins of Twerking: What It Is, What It Means, and How It Got Appropriated:
The roots of twerking are rich. Variants of the dance exist in most places where there’s a high concentration of people of African descent. Its current iteration is commonly associated with the New Orleans bounce scene, however growing up in London I immediately associate it with the Dancehall scene.
If people took the time to explore the root of what’s been dubbed as the “twerk,” they’d realise its origins lie in West Africa. It’s strikingly similar to the Mapouka dance from Côte d’Ivoire, a dance done by women that focuses on the buttocks. It’s existed for centuries.
The similarities between twerking and another dance of non-white origins gets downright eerie around here:
If we view twerking through a Western prism, we’ll interpret it as being sexual, scandalous and controversial. However when you place it in its original context you’ll realise it’s a cultural expression of joy, with its function being primarily celebratory rather than for sexual provocation. Growing up, I saw it most frequently performed during joyful occasions — family gatherings and weddings. There was nothing scandalous about it, it was simply dancing.
What happened to bellydancing is what is happening to twerking.