Inspired by the great queens of East Africa (e.g. Arawelo in Somalia and Gudit in Ethiopia), I have been researching a fantasy story about a matriarchal culture for the past two years. That research has led me to a story that I'd like to tell in an alternate history version of the Kingdom of Aksum (~500CE).
The cultures represented in this story would be distinctly different from those of historical Aksum, but given the under-representation of nonwhites in fantasy settings, I'd like to keep my story in a majority African setting. The problem, however, is that I am white.
Is it cultural appropriation if I keep the geography and place names the same, but replace the religion, government, and family dynamics in my story with ones that work for my plot? In this post it was described as "juxtaposition", but I feel like the rules may be different when you aren't working with majority cultures.
NB: "cultural appropriation" may be the inverse of the term I'm looking for, since the elements I want to replace are the cultural ones. My concern is that the rarity of africans in SF will lead to unfortunate implications when the readers assume that my fictional culture is the one that actually occurred.