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
– 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 Unpublished Poem, 2011.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.