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Cultural appropriation or innocent fantasy?


Well-known member
Not all people like Tiki Culture. How would you respond if challenged?
@#$%storm's coming, Randy!

  • The author sounds like she's wound a little too tight and she likely needs a hobby. Or more likely a few mai tais
  • Some people seem to get angry at the thought of other people having fun. She needs to read the bumper sticker and live Aloha or something
  • I somehow doubt that mainlanders in the 40s and 50s really walked into a tiki bar and thought, "Gee willakers, June, this is what Hawaii is really like."
  • "As we shuffled into the sprawling tiki-themed restaurant, we gawked and laughed at the ridiculous renditions of Pacific Islander life" - OK, as someone who also grew up on Oahu, this definitely rings true. We used to laugh and cringe when we'd visit Adventureland. And when we stayed at the Fairmont, I admit I laughed at the Tonga Room since it looked so ridiculous, but I somehow managed to like it on some level - hell, there was a pool in the middle of the dining room who can get angry at that? And don't ask about my attitude towards the International Marketplace in my hanabaddah days. It was for tourists and despite our mockery of it, somehow managed to live our lives and never got worked up or angry about its existence. And as I grew up and matured, this "dumb tourist" stuff bothered me less and less and obviously I now appreciate it
  • "Hawaiian pizza" - I remember when Domino's, I think, introduced this in their local stores and we all scratched our heads, laughed, but somehow nobody got butt hurt about it because it was actually tasty
  • It's probably worth noting the positive effect that the Tiki fad had longterm, both for stoking legitimate interest in Polynesian culture as well as opening a market for carvers across the Pacific, and possibly preserving traditional arts by creating an large market for such works
  • Just my opinion. And I'm a Filipino. I'm not a native Hawaiian so I can't speak to actual native Hawaiian thoughts, but I get the feeling that neither can Sarah
People don't emulate Polynesian culture because they think it sucks. They emulate it because they wished they could live it! When I was a kid, we had a saying, "imitation is the sincerest form of flattery." Now that we are in the Age of the Victim, they are trying to turn imitation into a hate crime.
Cultural appropriation is real, however, it is widely misunderstood and misused as a term.

Cultural exchange is real as well, but often overlooked.

Tiki has some problematic elements some try to dismiss or justifying by insisting "It's not real! It's a made-up culture." This is true, but misses the point. Tiki isn't real, but is wholly dependent on elements borrowed wholesale from existing, living cultures. Use of said elements requires, at minimum, the individuals incorporating said elements to research and educate themselves on the proper context and history, so as not to cause undue offense. Respect and appreciation are words often thrown around as get-out-of-jail-free cards by folks who haven't put in the time or effort to do either.

This isn't a question to be resolved with a yes or no answer, but rather open, ongoing and honest dialogue.
What defines a "culture"? That should be the main question.... There is authentic Island Culture and then there is the American Tiki "culture" One is serious and sober, the other ,filled with kitsch, delightful,windowless bars, and light hearted cocktails stemming from the World War 2 Pacific campaigns and a desire to paint over the horrors of war with tropical breezes and locales. I would bet my maiTai that most participants in the American Tiki Culture know more about the islanders, their culture, art,and mythologies, than the author of that article.... Reading her short bio, it appears she has many boxes to check, and "cultural Appropriation" is one of them . "Sarah Burke is a journalist and curator based in Brooklyn, NY. Her writing focuses on art, identity, social justice, technology, feminism, and the intersections therein." I've seen a few of these articles, and often,they're from the same 5 people.... One thing I've learned in these 57 years is that you can't please everyone, and SOMEBODY is going to get offended by something. It's time to ignore these naysayers and to keep doing what we're doing....Our hearts are in the right place ,ands stated before, a large number of folks in our movement/scene DO appreciate and elevate Polynesian/Oceanic Cultures..it just that we like to mix it with love and laughter.....
In regards to Exotica music, this is also an interesting take. I definitely see it as cultural appreciation, but some people definitely do not feel that way.

In regards to Exotica music, this is also an interesting take. I definitely see it as cultural appreciation, but some people definitely do not feel that way.

Interesting (if long-winded) article; lots of great historical info about Martin Denny and Les Baxter in the middle section of the article. Thanks for posting! I learned a lot. Of course you have to deal with a lot of left-wing pearl clutching along the way, too.
I was on Maui this past week. I was very careful not to pack any tshirts with "cartoonish" depictions of Tikis to avoid Cultural Appropriation. But the Tikis for sale in the shops and used for advertising there were overwhelmingly hideous cartoonish Tikis LOL