Articles, On Culture
Comments 13

VOODOO Halloween TIKI Party

Tiki mug, tiki mug

My face, my mother’s face, my father’s face, my sister’s face 

Tiki mug, tiki mug

White beachcombers in tiki bars drinking zombie cocktails from tiki mugs

The undead, the Tiki people, my mother’s face, my father’s face 

The black brown and ugly that make customers feel white and

beautiful

 – Tiki Manifesto. Dan Taulapapa McMullin. Unpublished Poem, 2011.

On Friday morning shit got real.

People got wind of Rebel Soul Records Voodoo Halloween Tiki Party and the people didn’t like it. I was one of them.

Rebel Soul Records is a newly opened record store situated in the same building as the Samoan Consulate. The store specialises in Jazz, Blues, Soul, Afro, Ska, Reggae, Dub, Punk, Alternative, Hip Hop and Electronica and also stocks collectibles including tiki kitsch.  Their event page tells us that “hidden within Samoa House is a beautiful Fale and is one of K-Rds hidden gems”. It continues to tell us that the Voodoo Tiki theme will include Fire and exotic dancers galore, Samoan BBQ with fire and roasted pigs heads! But most controversial was the poster – a woman of colour wearing nothing but a grass skirt, thin waist and oversized breasts holding a shrunken head and of corse a large tiki is in the corner too.

Are you fucking kidding me!? was amongst my first thoughts. I genuinely believed we were moving beyond the exoticism and fetishism attached to brown bodies in contemporary Auckland, but I guess not. There’s always someone wanting to sell $20 tickets to a party with a culturally offensive theme, allowing Pacific representation to become a party trick to make money. I kid you not, the phrase “native boobies” featured in two comments made by Facebook users under the image thread one of which by the organiser herself.

Before deleting the the event and threads of comments by offended Facebook users, Labretta Suede was quickly on the defensive, “Nice to see that NZ hasn’t changed. Still cutting people down for enjoying themselves. Don’t you know about you but Samoa has a lot to do with Tiki..”

First things first, Samoa is a culture, my culture and an underprivileged one at that. It’s not there for you to pick and choose elements of it at your whim for a halloween costume. Labretta you can’t post an image of a puletasi and call it a “tiki costume”, it already has a name, a good one. Samoa House is a special place. It’s used for many things from the prize givings for Pacific youth to the FAFSWAG pre ball that celebrates the unique talents of our emerging Māori and Pacific LGBTQI communities. From where I’m standing you are celebrating the colonisation, misrepresentation and continued control over the Pacific. We have been trying for years to break down Western hegemonic views of us as ‘exotic others’ and here you are proudly promoting artwork with a black sexualised body in a grass skirt. And, as far as I know it’s not Samoa that uses the Tiki.

If you are not going to contribute anything meaningful, don’t bother. It is not the 19th century when Gauguin was getting his jollies while painting naked Tahitian girls. This is 2015 and we’re not here for your racism.

Louisa Afoa

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13 Comments

  1. Deborah says

    Yup, that poster is offensive. Good on you for standing tall for your culture.

  2. Michelle says

    YESSSS! So well said! That was a disgusting poster…just mind-blowing that in the world’s most Pacific city there is such a lack of respect and so much plain stupidity! I told them what I thought of them on that FB page.

    I’ll send your link to an amazing blog called Native Appropriations; written by a young woman from the Cherokee Nation – I always find it very informative and she addresses a lot of relatable issues!

  3. This foolishness *sigh*… literally no words, for this idiot.

    P.S Kia ora Michelle, Auckland is not the world’s most Pacific city… far from it.

  4. nick buckwheat-seppuku says

    I think you’re taking it a bit toooo seriously. People act like they can just take the moral high ground when its their personal culture…

    I’m Maori and I really dont see it as that big a deal. The most important thing is their intention and I don’t feel like they are trying to ridicule or marginalise the samoan community considering that then they would just be marginalising a large amount of their customer base… You even said that they’ve set up shop in a largely islander community, so you’d think if they were rational they wouldn’t be wanting to offend the community they live in?

    And so if their intention wasn’t to be rude or offend im thinking maybe you just take your own culture a bit too seriously because your defensive about being forced to be a minority culture and have to conform to western globalisation.

    Seems like your frustration is more about society as a whole (which is a fair frustration to have) but to me it seems like you are blaming these people unfairly.

  5. nick buckwheat-seppuku says

    (also you just gave them so much exposure writing this lol)

  6. No nick, I don’t think they are trying to attract Samoans to the party – it’s a rock n roll gig pretty much all the bands will be white and its a pretty white trash weasty scene tbh… Sorry but just being honest! However in rock n roll culture it’s not uncommon to have images of half naked women on the posters or in the imagery… It’s a subversive culture… And apparently nudity is still subversive. I’m split. I can’t stand the poster especially the picture of the woman or the band but at the same time knowing the scene I can’t help but wonder if it’s just innocent idiots…?! Also tiki is Maori and Hawaiian… Is it a Samoan thing at all??? Sounds like they’re being dick heads but probably not truly racist. I like your write up too Louisa! Please keep up the good work! The subversive needs to be subverted!

  7. Alanna says

    I can’t believe there is even an argument around whether the ‘savage native’ imagery here is racist. It’s an established racist troupe, used here for kitsch value. It’s disgusting.

  8. Allan says

    I agree with Nick about the intention, and the intention! is very clearly not racist – Rebel soul records sells predominantly black music, and a wide range of other music including world music. And hiring Samoa House, Samoan dancers and a Samoan fire juggler?

    I agree that the poster wasn`t very well thought through; it`s a bit of a cartoon hodgepodge and a homage to original posters for early 60s bands, often inspired by `hi- energy world music`, who played the same sort of `hi-energy party music` as the two bands on the night, The poster refers to The Feast of The Mau Mau (a screaming Jay Hawkins song), and the dark skinned woman while not politically correct, is certainly Powerful!

    I attended the event (did anyone else here?), and was surprised at how much of a Samoan event it was. Samoa House is a very special space and really dominated the whole evening. The Samoan performers were great – graceful dancing, and professional fire juggling. Totally entertaining! Then fun party dance music from the Cavemen, and Labretta Suede (much improved with their new lineup and more dancey sound). It all worked together very well, and a very respectful appreciative crowd

    For me it was an entertaining and uplifting night, and I left with very positive feelings towards Samoan culture, which I would probably not otherwise have come in contact with! And I want to go back to Samoa House : )

  9. Dark Skinned Powerful Woman says

    How fabulous for you Allan – very cool. Sounds like you could have been at a Samoan service at the local church with all this uplifting entertainment and feelings of positivity. Did you wear your tiki shirt or grass skirt? You were even mixing with the natives for the first time?Amazing. Thankyou for making us all feel better that you had a great evening out. I was thinking that Labretta Suede was associated with B-trash party culture,naked women and the like. But thanks to your uplifting post, I know better now…..

  10. Regardless of what their intent was, if sooooo many people felt objectified and abused by this poster, then it’s result was received as racism.

    That’s what defines racism, the feeling of being subjected to abuse, regarding culture, by those with majority power.

    Many New Zealanders normalise racism because it’s so everyday here, in Aotearoa. Whether you see it or not, doesn’t negate it happening before your very eyes.

    If you enjoyed your night there, then you enjoyed it at the cost of many more who were hurt by ignorance enacted as social violence.

    It was a disgusting poster.

    Tiki was the first human being created by the cosmos, sacred in every way.

    Tiki is not for anyone to commodify as American consumerist trash.

    People do not need to lighten up, rather they need to get conscious.

  11. We are much more than such gimmickry.
    It’s tired and so hackneyed, I would have been a little embarrassed to have it released as publicity.

    Perhaps we are too sensitive… since the first time mainstream (ykwim) made my culture a weird thing “what are you eating… oo yuck” to “I didn’t think you’d know about Victorian art.” I realise that noone gives a flying… what blacky says until blacky say “NO”.

    I say “NO” to this type of representation because it is commercialising a notion of me and where I am from. Sure it’s not a new thing that is being done. But … yeah… just don’t…

    Thank you Ms Louisa for your honest and measured response. x

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