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LA Times article (Friday): Use of Styrofoam Statues Offends Easter Islanders

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Hiya folks, I am not gone, I just HAVE to concentrate all my efforts on my writing of the Witco book now. But this demands our attention, I want to respond to this:


I've been waiting for something like this. Here is my response, don't know if I will send it as letter, or get the chance to do it as somekind of press release:

While I sympathise with the efforts to keep Polynesian culture alive and authentic, this can not be achieved by ethnocentricity, but by accepting the effects of multiculturalism.
Regretably, multiculturalism brings with it a certain amount of watering down of a culture, the task is to keep a balance between maintaining authenticity and being open to other cultures and their interpretations.

American Tiki culture represents a unique chapter of American folk art, born out of the naive love for Polynesian culture. It is guilty of a certain ignorance, but it is that very innocent handling of cultural icons that makes it attractive today. It was unique to a time and a generation, and all depictions of it today relate to that history, which was very real to many Americans. I believe that in my book I have established it as a pop art genre in it's own right, and to deny it it's existence is a futile attempt to turn back time.
Regretably, many people will not be able to differentiate between authentic Polynesian culture and American "Polynesian Pop". But here one can only attempt to enlighten by education, not by shutting off.
In my view, the returning popularity of Tikis and Moais as symbols has a deeper cause and can be used to bring new generations in touch with these almost extinct cultures, hopefully creating a deeper interest and appreciation in their unique heritage if not in all, but at least in some recipients of Tiki imagery, thus spreading and propagating the spirit of these traditions.

This is a very good point of view.
It makes me think of Thor Heyerdahl, who has been active in both fields dealing with polynesian culture. The pop part and the serious, in his case, scientific part. It was the mainstream pop appeal that made his serious work a possibility.
Today we see so many fierce confrontation where culture and religion is taking people further apart. Resulting in wars like in Israel. Everywhere you look today, you see the conequences of the seperating powers of religion. Popculture has many negative sides as well, but it has got the power to connect people, too. And like Bigbrotiki said, it might even be a route to investigation of the real thing.

Cultures, like everything else, are constantly being watered down. That’s not really caused by popculture being a false represantion of one particular culture, but due to the nature of the world and the people. Culture is already one half watered watered down, by the time you first become aware of it. You just think it’s pure the first time you realize it.


P.S. My thoughts are with Thor right now.


Well I don't think I'm alone as one of the tikiphiles who'd look a concerned native easter islander in the face and laugh. This has nothing to do with them - they are but inspiration for props in an entertaining fantasy world we have created.
Furthermore, part of the joy of tiki for me is its outright religious irreverance. We have reduced the Gods to silly scenery and drink from their heads.
I understand the patronizing 50's pop perversion of polynesian culture, and proudly carry on the mantle. Dance for us you happy natives, dance!
The Polynesians aren't the only ones to have their religion reduced to entertainment - in Atlanta Georgia a great gourmet restaurant is called The Abbey. It's a real, entire church building and sanctuary converted into a theme restaurant where the theme is catholicism. There's nothing like dining like a roman god in a place where they used to worship a poor nazarene carpenter.

They're just noticing this now?

I've always thought of "tiki" as a tongue-in-cheek look at the goofiness of our own culture, not theirs. Its the kitschness of the kitschness of the first time around. The bad taste of the bad taste.

Anyway, I think tiki-fever just goes to show how much we enjoy thir culture, and basically appreciate their art- especially when you sprinkle it with a bit of good old American Pop.

I would bet that most tourists that travel to Easter Island these days go to see the "tikis" -is that a bad thing?


I find it hard to believe that the original tiki culture wasn't totally tongue in cheek about "primitives" - how could they be "innocent" - adults in the mid twentieth century were just as smart as we (if not smarter, certainly their books and films were more intelligent). I submit that the originators and participants in the original tiki lounge culture were cultural imperialists poking fun under the table at simple island people who live in little grass shacks. Sure these white suburbanites idealized life on far away pacific isles where rum barrels always lay around the next corner and native girls did impromptu topless dances... but the fact is they didn't move to Polynesia and stayed home in Minneapolis working for National Conglomerated Insurance, remaining good Christians to boot. I don't think they were trying to understand or "appreciate" in the academic sense the cultures or religions of polynesia - I think they were trying to let off some steam after a long workweek calculating risk ratios. Tiki's roots just could not be "P.C." and I don't think there's anything wrong with that. Sure, now that we've all made it through the 90's everyone is sensitive to language that smacks of anything but outright reverence to foreign cultures, but this notion of cultural relativism is entirely a recent academic creation and is not how the human mind naturally works and has worked since exploration first began. I don't think we have to or should apologize or explain away what Tiki culture was and what it still is to an extent - the bastardization of polynesian culture for the sake of entertainment. And after 9/11, entertainment is more important than ever according to Tom Cruise.

Now wait a minnit, kahukini...If one becomes aware of how white people have committed genocide on the Easter Islanders by kidnapping the entire male population and letting them die shoveling birdshit in the Guano mines, and how, in a parallel to the indian blanket story, slavetraders sent back fever infected Marquesans to the islands, causing an epidemic that whiped out much of that population, and how the missionairies systematically destroyed the native culture everywhere in Polynesia, sucking out the joy of life....
then one should tread a little more lightly, and be understanding that the few remaining natives are concerned about what remains.

Unfortunately this kind of ruthless imperialism happened all over the world, to all kinds of native people, and it's effects are largely non reversable (again, that does not mean one can just forget about it).

And I can not concurr with the assumption that 50s Americans were not genuinely innocent, in a naive way, about their depiction of the Polynesian culture. You make it sound as if they were consciously making fun of the culture, while I believe that they were inspired by the very spirit of lightheartedness of it to enjoy it and enjoy themselves with it, not knowing any better than to depict it than they did. It is that humor, that whimsical attitude, the lack of concern about academic correctness that I like about Polynesian Pop. To me that is where Polynesian activists have to differentiate: Tiki style was not actively directed at satirizing Polynesian traditions, the intentions of the people utilizing it were loving and admiring, including the use of the sense of humor that imbued it.
I'm not denying that a certain percentage of the 50s/60s Polynesian pop participants were racist white trash, but even they were gracious as far as Polynesia was concerned.

Well I'm not trying to describe the participants of 50's cocktail culture as racist or white trash, from what I have seen they were rather cosmopolitan.
We'll just have to agree to disagree about the level of "innocence" however. I agree with your characterization of lightheartedness, humor, whimsical attitude, lack of concern, etc. - but all of this did not occur in a vacuum from what was going on in the wider world. These are still the same americans that were enjoying the greatest boom time in the history of man, fully cognizant of their place as the leader of the free world. The purpose of polynesian pop was as you state not to satirize or patronize polynesian cultures, the purpose was entertainment. We agree on that. But polynesian popsters were aware that they were not being accurate, they were aware that they were using what native peoples considered serious stuff for lighthearted purposes (you can see this in the magazine articles of the times, in the belittling language used to describe the cute polynesians and their darling customs and rituals). And they didn't care. Nor should we. Sure native peoples all over the globe have been ravaged in the wake western society's expansion. But just because your people have experienced the Holocaust in the past doesn't give you the right to quash freedoms for unresponsible people in the future.

I am sorry, but 50s Americans were NOT exactly cosmopolitans. Polynesia was THE first exotic culture they came in contact with. The fact is that a large part of the Tiki supper club clientel took the decor for genuinly Polynesian, NOT a funny rendition of that culture done by Americans.
It is just not conceivable today, when TV and the media has brought the world on to everybody's doorstep, to which extent the average American was, if not to use the words innocent or ignorant, simply inexperienced with other foreign cultures. The middle American mom and pop's knowledge of other customs generally was in direct relation to the size of their National Geographic collection. This was much more the case back then, but even today I am baffled to still meet Americans that never have left the country. That is just inconceivable in Europe, where you drive a whole day and have passed three countries. I am not saying this is good or bad, it just made for a certain cultural inexperience.

[ Edited by: Basement Kahuna on 2004-02-05 10:03 ]

Weren't african slaves "exotic"? Wasn't South America "exotic"? And what about those peyote smoking wind worshiping native americans? These cultures don't get much more foreign to the western worldview and yet Americans had intimate contact with them, and each of them now has their representative mass produced resin statuets to decor our homes.
It doesn't bother me that most Americans never leave the country, it makes sense due to the size of the freaking continent. I don't care what anybody does so long as everyone remains free to do whatever they like that doesn't harm others. What bothers me about Bush is that the guy is a driveling idiot who goes to bed every night reciting the next day's catch phrase. And of course the fact that he's a conservative who controls the wrath of god.

Hmm.. this is an interesting little dilemma. If I’m clear on this, the Moai supporters want there to be a complete end to all use of Moai heads as icons evocative of Tiki culture? It’s pretty obvious that everybody in this club ‘gets it’ about the whole Tiki-pop thing. Most of us probably know something about the original cultural background and are completely sensitive (even apologetic) to the struggle of the natives, now and in the past... None of us want to be missionaries - we all want to be NATIVES. :) Still, for every one of us there’s a hundred or more out there in middle America that won’t ‘get it.’ Ever. You can lead them to culture, but you can’t make them think - so to speak. That goes for the 50s AND the '00s. What's the bit about 'The more things change...?' It’s pretty depressing, but on the bright side - it’s not like anybody, be they prole or cognocenti, are slamming Moai imagery in the same way African-Americans were slammed by the minstrel shows in the 1900s. We at least had the sense to realize that that truly was wrong. We’re not saying, ‘ha ha look at the big, stupid heads, ha ha ha.’ It’s more like - ‘wow, those are mysterious and cool and even if I don’t have the attention span to read about the history, I’d like a replica of that for my home, bar, office, etc.’ They encourage us to dream about exotic things, perhaps to learn. As for the carvings themselves, I’m sure all of us would LOVE to hire a traditional stone-carver to shack up at our houses/apartments for a few months and carve us a true image. Unfortuantely, most of us will have to make do with styrofoam. We’re being affectionate toward the culture in the only way we know how - hewing our own interpretations for everyday use. Isn’t that sort of what the original natives did, anyway? Taking the Moai/Tiki imagery out of an already corporatized, whitewashed cluture will just make it overall MORE bland, MORE incensitive, and more just-plain-dumb. The Easter Islanders should be happy that there are at least people like us who get it, and are for better or worse supporters of their culture and our own culture’s interpretation of it. It’s hard to believe that there are people who want to be so selfish as to not share, especially since we’ve been playing nice with the concept since it was introduced.

Imperialism, respect for other cultures, yeah, yeah, yeah. Thats all fine and good, but what about THIS:

"Afterward, according to Morales, the statue replicas were turned over to a Hollywood prop shop for rental use.
They later appeared in a triple-X movie, "Making Love Hawaiian Style," he said."

Who here has seen this? C'mon, fess up!



The Words of Kahukini:

"We have reduced the Gods to silly scenery and drink from their heads."

"Dance for us you happy natives, dance!"

"There's nothing like dining like a roman god in a place where they used to worship a poor nazarene carpenter."

"But just because your people have experienced the Holocaust in the past doesn't give you the right to quash freedoms for unresponsible people in the future."

Kahukini, you're scaring the hell out of me! I guarantee that NONE of your reasonings go into why I participate in anything pertaining to tiki at all!

Though I'm not a religious man, I have no interest in "reducing" anyone's god(s) or commanding anyone to dance for me!

You brought up some interesting points but come on! I think more than racist imperial deity reduction the phenomenon of tiki is better explained on pages 125-127 of The Book of Tiki:

"The fact that Americans from all walks of life had suddenly been exposed first hand to a completely strange culture left an indelible impression on American itself...The attitude was one of boyish wonder...the memories that remained...were mostly of an exciting or pleasant nature."

How that exposure and those memories were translated, expressed and how they evolved is of immense fascination. i don't think the vast majority of tiki culture participants were trying to do anything more than express and experience a heightened sense of wonder and escape.

And I certainly don't think Sven was in anyway squashing the freedoms of unresponsible people. Furthermore, I don't even understand what the Holocaust has to do with any of this.

And as a born and bred Georgia cracker (I grew up in Chickamauga, GA) who has since married into an Italian (and consequently, Catholic) family, I can guarantee that eatin' out at the Abbey in HOtlanta is a LONG way off from dining like a Roman god.

Take Care,
:sheckymug: :sheckymug: :sheckymug: :sheckymug:

Tiki Chris

[ Edited by: Tiki Chris on 2002-04-14 13:41 ]

[ Edited by: Tiki Chris on 2002-04-14 13:41 ]

[ Edited by: Tiki Chris on 2002-04-14 13:55 ]

[ Edited by: Tiki Chris on 2002-04-14 13:58 ]

[ Edited by: Tiki Chris on 2002-04-14 13:58 ]


Well it's pretty darn expensive as I recall... sort of ludicrously so, hence roman overindulgence came to mind. And you have to agree that The Abbey is socially condoned sacriledge! We need more of it.

Now regarding me scaring you - to each his own! Although I doubt I'm alone in connecting religious irreverance and tiki GODS. I enjoy it for all the same reasons you and sven do, but on top of all that, I also get a kick out of the real world silliness of religion in general. so impale me!


holocaust = genocide = being killed in masses by germs and weapons and spirit sucking Christian missionaries. they've been through a lot. But that doesn't mean their decendants living in Southern California get to guilt us out of our moai head toilet seats. I wasn't referring to sven, although his letter to the editor seems to placate and explain away more than necessary - I'd prefer he say there's nothing wrong with making entertainment out of anything, it's part of being human.

Having had a father who served in the Pacific during world war two, I've seen that the whole ignorant/escapist thing is a far blurrier line than either side is making out.
At least in my experience. My father could tell you about Hawaii, with great detail, but coming from the mind of a good ol' South Carolina boy, or tell you about the various cultures encountered during the solomon islands campaign. But again, while very accurate, there was a certain american imperialism. Kind of like a certain Life Magazine article from 1939 refering to "coolies" trying to break through the perimeter wire of an american marine base in China, or the attitude that Pearl Harbor was safe, because the Japanese could never be smart enough to fly airplanes.

And as to someone mentioning smoking, life may end tomorrow, but that pack of cigarretes is sucking my tax dollar away from far more useful purposes. $7.00 a pack if I recall the just released study.
But thats another argument for another group.
Perhaps theres a Larynx Cancer chat group somewhere.

i think we've all veered a bit too far from what's of the utmost importance in that l.a. times article:


let's hope lenny & squiggy will be along for the zany hijicks that are sure to ensue! perhaps carmine will serenade the gang to lighten their spirits after grieving over the loss of mr. difazzio!

[ Edited by: Tiki Chris on 2002-04-14 16:12 ]

Lenny and Squiggy will be along for the ride...

perhaps even more frightening than trekkies (tho there can't be too many of them!):


we're gonna do it our way!

[ Edited by: Tiki Chris on 2002-04-15 01:24 ]

so what role do these styrofoam moais play in the show?

are L & S on vacation in hawaii? has squiggy started a tiki bar?

has some mysterious force brought the gang back together again?

The way I see it the American fascination with Polynesian pop had a lot to do with escaping the strict conservative culture of the time in a manner that was socially acceptable. I recollect Sven making this point in his book. My parents are a good example. Good Republicans who loved Martin Denny and Trader Vics. Actually my Dad worked in Asia and the South Pacific in the fifties and early 70's and I don't recollect him ever making fun of these cultures. Also, I think part of what killed Polynesian pop was a sudden aversion to all things "Asian" in reaction to the horrors of the Vietnam War. Although PC wasn't around in the 70's, it wasn't PC to party like a native by the time Nixon left office.

Multiculturism IS ethnocentrism. It is cultural balkanization. It is the opposite of mainstreaming. If anyone is guilty of the former, it is the Rapa Nui representatives. Is it just me or does it seem in generations past Americans of different cultural backgrounds were more interested in becoming part of one unique American culture than they are now? Today it seems that more and more people of varying races and countries of origin resent assimilation, celebrating separateness and victimhood.


HOLD ON HERE! We are talking about American Polynesian culture of the 50's and 60's, NOT african slave trade, american indians or the destruction of the X group by Y group hundreds of years ago! Don't bring your unrelated tale into this.

What we have is a bunch of American ex-G.I.'s who got a "free" trip around the world. On this trip, many went through Hawaii at a time when you mostly got to Hawaii by boat. Many were in the Philipines and other tropical islands. They were average galoots like us who could never pack up and move to Fiji, or even visit there again unless clothed in olive drab.

When they came back, they didn't go to Trader Bob's or Polynesian Paradise to do anything but hark back to the lovely lands of paradise they saw.

Yes, they were bastardizing it all, but not out of anything but admiration. If they could have traveled back to Borneo, they would. And many did. Hawaii became the tourist place it is thanks to this, and great weather and beaches.


Okay, am I wrong, or aren't these Easter Island statues a mystery right along with Stone Henge? So how is it part of the islanders religion? It may be their culture, but that's weak. The gas staion down the street and the mountain up the road are part of my culture, like them, because I was born and live near them.

Have these people watched Spongebob Squarepants yet? We are in for some real problems when they get Cartoon Network down there...


I stand by the arguments I made and the way I made them, I wish I had some of my old magazines with me so I could type you quotes of the distinctly patronizing language used in reference to polynesians. Although so far I've only seen one post that seems to support my assertions, I don't think it would make them any less true were I the only one in the group to have this understanding of american history.

Let's say for the sake of argument that Sven is right, that the fifties cocktail culture was not aware of its bastardization or that they were in effect degrading rituals and idols sacred to polynesians. What about us? It's us these easter island decendants are concerned about. Sven says the easter islanders should hold us blameless because we are celebrating the fifties cocktail culture and THEIR naivete. Fine. We are celebrating the art, food, drinks, books, films, and decor of a bygone era in American cultural history. But we are doing our celebrating in full knowledge of the new multicultural world we all live in, where everything supposedly deserves reverance - especially things associated with formerly oppressed minorities.

We ARE TO BLAME in the eyes of the easter islanders for degrading their culture because WE, unlike the original cocktail culture, are not ignorant of the existence of a reality and our distortion of it for the purpose of entertainment. They have the right to be upset, and it makes sense from their perspective. They are making the same argument that Native Americans make when they passionately request that sports teams change derogatory names like "Redskins" or that Braves fans stop doing the "Tomahawk Chop." They are asking for sensitivity and respect for their cultural heritage just as the easter islanders are. We are NOT respecting Easter Islanders by making moai head toilet seats and mugs. I think Sven, and we, need to recognize our own "culpability" in being insensitive, and we need to accept it! Don't apologize for what tiki culture is. Dare to party like a native in a modern world.

[ Edited by: kahukini on 2002-04-15 07:44 ]

[ Edited by: kahukini on 2002-04-15 10:13 ]


I don't know about you, but Kiliki and I bow down and worship and regularly sacrifice to our Tiki Gods.

Sure, it's a bastardization of the Polynesian religions, but we are very serious about it. If they would teach us the proper way, we'd do it. Instead we "worship the Coke bottle we have found." :wink:

The American Indians don't often collect their own items. They want them out of museums so they can burn it. That's their tradition. But people collect it and it's in museums.

Very little that anyone collects is collected in context. But it is usually done with care and respect.

There are a lot more things to complain about than Laverne and Shirley. Go to Party City and look at the big plastic tiki masks, etc.

It's culture. If it gets wrapped up in religion too, that's not the point. It's folk art. We can't draw a sharp line and say that only cultural icons that are non-religious are acceptable.

Granted, it might make us concerned if crucifixes were popping up as quaint props in Hindu homes, but they would be right beside O'Charlies signs and other ephemera and clearly would not be in context.

It's one thing to pee pn Jesus/Moai's, but it's another to pee on Jesus and McDonalds and Coke. One is a religious image, the other is an American Cultural hodge podge.

In the 80's, there were Christians who were concerned about the use of Jesus as fad jewelry. And that was justified. it was a stab at religion.

We aren't doing that in our tiki worlds. And there are planty of crappy images of Jesus right here in America that the conservative can get bent about. We bastardize our own religion.

The issue is the thickness of one's skin and context. Am I going to Easter Island and peeing on the stature during a religious service, or enjoying a Mai Tai at Trader Vic's?


What luck, I just happened to visit Caber-Net's homepage and found a scanned in article from an old Harper's. It didn't have the date on it but was probably 40's. Maybe caber can fill us in. But the article, like so many, betrays the true nature of the understanding americans had of polynesia:

Discussing the varied islands of polynesia:
"In some the women are perfect nymphs, with soft brown complexions,wavy black tresses, and as delicate forms as sculptor ever imitated in marble. They have musical voices, amiable manners, and sharp minds; while the men are muscular fellows, of friendly and courageous disposition. In others the men and women alike are black, dwarfed, ignorant, and ferocious, with beastly customs and manners."
"Most have submitted to the emollient influence of the missionary, and of those who have not it is only fair to say that they are less inherently cruel than resentful for the wrongs they have suffered for a century at the hands of the white traders."

The article continues to treat the polynesians as objects, and compares the problems white people have encountered with them as akin to "our own Indian question." (If the polynesians were thought of as "indians" in the American mind that brings with it an immense amount of prejudiced understanding and objectification of them, that is plain.)

discussion a visit to see a missionary's work the author writes:
"they are stalwart, strongly knit, and handsome, still superior to trowsers, and wear no other dress than an abbreviated skirt made of bark. The women have exquisite teeth, and small soft hands with fine taper fingers. For South Sea Islanders they are exceptionally moral, faithfully complying with stringent marriage laws, and limiting their offenses to occasional violations of the eigth commandment."

I haven't read the entire article and am certain there would be tons more passages worth quoting just as there are in lots of other articles in lots of other magazines, all of which support my point that the common american's idea of polynesians were children living in ignorance of their own sin who needed to be guided to the truth, the truth that western society embodied. Polynesian culture held "wonder" and "enchantment" for americans, sure, but that does not mean they valued it for anything more than entertainment.

[ Edited by: kahukini on 2002-04-15 10:09 ]

[ Edited by: kahukini on 2002-04-15 10:11 ]

Speaking of Native American sports mascots, did you hear about the University of Northern Colorado Intramural Basketball team's new mascot? Many of their number are Native American and they tried to make a point by naming their team the "Fighting Whities". Far from being offended, they got a very positive response from white people and are now selling t-shirts. Lots of them.

There are a lot of people that have sported crosses as nothing more than a fashion statement, in many cases designed to antagonize, no doubt. Goths, punks, etc. Crucifix as shtick.

I find it somewhat poor to be able to reduce you interest to peeing into a moai, and think that that’s what polynesian pop is about.
If not Heyerdahl (he’s not American I recogn), London, Twain, Michener and I am sure some more guys wrote about the islands in a pop- yet respectful way.


Much has been written, some was misunderstood, so I will try to make this brief (and by the way mention some of the problems I am having with this new format: How can I respond to a specific message, and let other readers know that this is a response to that message. That was automatic in the old club. And more important how can I get the messages of the day? With the chronological line up before, it was really easy to check all unread messages by headline (and the beginning of the first sentence) for relevance, and decide if one was interested, and know that one had caught up, and now I never know if I read all, because I don't have the time to watch response counts and weed out what is new. I also can't do the e-mail thing, I have too much e-mail traffic to catch up with already..?!)

ANYWAY here's my response to:

Let's say for the sake of argument that Sven is right, that the fifties cocktail culture was not aware of its bastardization or that they were in effect degrading rituals and idols sacred to polynesians. What about us? It's us these easter island decendants are concerned about. Sven says the easter islanders should hold us blameless because we are celebrating the fifties cocktail culture and THEIR naivete.

I think someone (you, me?) should write an article about this issue and our fascinating discussion of it here on Tiki Central for the next edition of the Tiki News... If the notion that modern tiki culture is cruelly dirtying the heritage of Polynesians were to catch fire, it would be the greatest threat to Tikidom. We have to nip this in the bud, and I think an intelligent, well-written article in the Tiki News, our official publication of record, is called for. It would characterize the depth of analysis and consideration we used to reach our response: Modern tiki culture represents an abiding appreciation and concern for authentic polyenesian culture and a simultaneous celebration of the uniquely American, uniquely cooky mid twentieth century rendition of it. The joy of one is infused with an understanding of the other and vice versa. We understand these native Easter Islander's objection to our use of Moai imagery, but just as they ask that we not be ignorant of their real world significance, we ask that Polynesians understand that our lighthearted use of elements of pacific island culture is in reference to our own historical fantasy world, not their history.
This article would I expect do enough to protect our continued unmarginalized existence in the modern multiculural world.

I suggest the Easter Islanders take a leaf from "The Wicker Man" by enticing an inconsiderate Tiki-abusing Hollywood Director over to the Island. They could then confuse and confound him with their pagan ways, then sacrifice him inside a giant flaming Moai!

That would appease the Gods.

Trader Woody


From what I have read I was under the impression that the moai statues were carved and erected by natives of Rapa Nui that diappeared from the island long ago. The current inhabitants of Rapa Nui are not descendants of the statue makers. I have respect for the current Rapa Nui people's culture but I just don't see how the use of the moais for movie props (or tiki mugs, or email signatures even!) is demeaning to their culture.


I wonder how much we have to "thank" Christian missionaries for tiki culture - with most Hawaiians and other islanders now being Christians, they see the "tiki gods" as but curiosities too when they make them and sell them (except for a small minority that have "rediscovered" their heritage in recent decades) - they don't think they are making idols. Since most of the missionaries' dirty work was done in the late 19th and early 20th c., by the height of 50's tiki culture it makes it even more likely that the "erroneous" paganism of the past was ripe for secular use, and the newly baptized natives wouldn't care about serving white people mai tai's in the head of Lono.

This is a good article on a previous Hollywood/Easter Island run-in.


Trader Woody


In case no one has mentioned the location of the four Moais, I will tell you. The Jab and I cruised around the Paramount Studios area and found the "offensive" Moais on public display. They are located outside a prop-shop called CP3 at 1107 Bronson near the corner of Santa Monica. My guess is that they are only outside during the day and that they are brought back in when the prop shop is closed. A local store owner says that they have been on display for years(they weren't made for the Laverne & Shirley special). If you are not afraid of offending anyone, go have a friend take a picture of you standing next to them-they are approximately 15-18 feet tall!

It seems the point of discussion here is how Imperialistic Western Civilization (IWC) has reduced another culture's religious icons to nothing more than a retail item to be consumed. Wait a minute! That's Christmas and Easter!

Tiki Bong (gurgle, gurgle, cough)

You want offensive? You want imperialist? You want racist? Anybody seen the Abercrombie and Fitch shirts with the derogatory cartoons of asians on them?

I've yet to see anything tiki done with such utter lack of taste. At least back in the old days of tiki there was the understandable lack of knowledge on the culture, and even then they didn't come up with something so vile.

I need a new bottle...


I really don't get ANY of the points that the Easter Islanders want to make.

Thejab seemed to be one of the only people to point out something that was one of my first thoughts too. Namely, in what way do the current Easter Islanders take part in the cultural tradition that the moai represented? From the books I've read, the natives themselves were the ones who toppled and destroyed statues as a rather extreme show of disrespect for the traditions they represented. So are these icons cherished now, or still disrespected by the natives?

And nobody seems to know very much about the traditions themselves, since many details were lost in the turmoil that the island's population experienced as a result of their own self-destructive history (even if it was helped along more recently with exploitation and infection).

And there's the part about "take action now to prevent their sacred culture from being commercialized.." Yes? And?? If there are commercialized versions of the moai iconography then this is bad because...?? And when the natives themselves sell reproductions of the moai, does this work toward some more noble end that doesn't count as commercialization? Perhaps it's about money and they expect some kind of international copyright on the icons?

And what's the issue with hiring bare-breasted natives for a movie? Should female extras have been outfitted in matching t-shirts, to go for that extra authentic look that the natives are so concerned about?

The part I really don't get is the hypersensitivity about cultural stereotypes. I'm nordic and german by ancestry, so I guess I should get all pissy every time anyone shows anything that's even slightly a caricature of vikings, blondes, krauts, pale-skinned people, or anyone named Hans. Picket the movie Fargo for portraying the singsongy scando-american way of talking.

Are people really that insecure about their own cultures, so that if someone else [mis]appropriates the cultural images, they're truly offended? In the old beach flicks, there's usually this girl from sweden or somewhere, who only says "ja ja ja" all the time. I can almost imagine someone today seeing that, and protesting that it makes scandinavians look braindead. The reasons don't have to be complicated - the point is that it's just done in a light way that you have to be utterly humorless to get hung up on. Unfortunately, I think there're a lot of humorless people, and way too much catering to their whining.



I gotta say something about the Abercrombie and Fitch stuff... being a whitey who grew up in a mostly asian/ jewish neighbourhood, I gotta say I find the whole Abercrombie kefrfuffle amusing. I dont know any asian people my age who are offended by shirts like that - in fact, my Filipino partner at work regularily wears her " WE BANG NAO" shirt, complete with cartoon Honolulu masseuses with slanty eyes. She knows full well this shirt is a dig AGAINST the old school racism. It's poking fun at it. It's exposing it for the silliness it is. I'm surprised more people don't see the irony. Most of the people I know who buy these type of shirts are asian. Everyone needs to lighten up a little. Sheesh.

Regarding the A&F thing. I personally find the things offensive , white anglo saxon
(former protestant) geek boy that I am. I'd never buy them, However should someone wish to own,wear, or burn one, thats their perogative.
Heck I see them as the next big ebay item. Maybe Abercrombie and Fitch will launder their recalled orders through ebay. The company could make much more off of them in the "Just banned, very rare " category.
Who knows.

aquarj, talk about your irony - the extent to which natives protested their women going half naked in that movie is also the extent to which they have been influenced by western christian values, namely self shame and loathing.

Sorry it's from the 70's - 1870's "I've got an article from "Harper's New Monthly Magazine" about an 1871 trip through the south sea islands"

the date on it but was probably 40's. Maybe caber can fill us in.
[ Edited by: kahukini on 2002-04-15 10:09 ]

[ Edited by: kahukini on 2002-04-15 10:11 ]


can somebody post a link to a picture of these A&F asian shirts, I've never seen one- it sounds inteeeeresting..

Just saw on ET news that A&F just pulled production on the '2 Wongs Don't Make a Right' shirt...

yep they yanked em

Bigbro, how did you finally decide to represent us in the L.A. Times? Have you sent in a letter yet or will you? I hope you will, I'd hate to see the article stand as it is.

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