A post about a new Nike print based on tattoo design from Fiji, New Zealand and Samoa caused Facebook blood to boil this past week. Many thought it to be blatant appropriation and that a massive global brand like Nike should be in some way paying for the rights to use the designs.
In NikeBlog‘s description, the countries are acknowledged as sources of the design concept and tattoo design is even relatively well aligned within the context of this skin-tight range. It would be awesome if a proportion of the profits made from the sale of this range could be invested in development projects in the source countries, but crediting individuals, clans, villages, regions or even countries for each motif would surely be a political, cultural and artistic minefield.
I don’t want to endorse Nike in any way, but I would wear most things in this range. For me, it would be about wearing something with cultural relevance to who I am and where I come from, but also that our tattoo has always worked to emphasise and complement the curves and bends of the body and this range would do that for even the curviest of Nesian forms. However, it is possible that like many of the more funky Nike pants, sizing will not exceed Large and the big girls will be stuck in boring black. Mehh.
The last 48 hours have been a blur.
I’m in Vancouver, preparing to speak at the Pacific Arts Associational (PAA) International Symposium at the University of British Columbia this week. Leilani and my first stop from the airport was the Musqueam Indian Reserve; our savvy native tour guide, Terry Point, gave us insights into the politics of land ownership, the background of the impressive new Musqueam Recreation Centre and Cultural Centre and the loss of language. There’s something about being on native land, something that feels like home – it was the perfect way to be introduced to Vancouver.
As the speakers, energy and culture of this Symposium start to manifest around us, I’m reminded of my responses to the last gathering in 2010. I wrote this response at the time; it was inspired by a particularly disempowering experience and generated excellent conversations around the politics of this gathering and the interface of practitioners and scholars, Pacific and non-Pacific.
Whilst I’ve made my position known, and my anti-elitist, grassroots politics have the potential to rub institutional minds the wrong way, Leilani keeps reminding me why it’s important that we’re here.
At Mama Loco, an Auckland Mexican themed bar and eatery, my boyfriend and I were asked to provide a credit card or debit card before being served food in the outside seating area. It was a slightly confronting request, a protocol we would have preferred to have been informed of when being greeted inside the establishment. We wondered if everyone in the outside seating area had been asked the same thing.
Whilst most Mexican themed eateries in Auckland attempt to create an authentic or stylistic Mexican feel, there is a sharp curve of quality and customer service. At the bottom is most definitely MEXICO Food & Liquor in Britomart; mediocre and overpriced food, rude service and terrible pixelated pictures of Frida Kahlo offensively stuck up around the toilet. At the top is Ellerslie’s Mexican Specialties – warm, genuine service, exquisite food, and only open Thursday through Saturday.
Mama Loco’s decor is eye-catching but their prawn taco – mediocre, and their service slightly shambolic. I think of my last trip to California; Leilani and I were staying in downtown L.A and found a little underground Mexican eatery which was cheap, delicious and full of Mexicans. It may seem old-fashioned in the context of globalisation, but when Mexican food and culture is presented and sold by Mexicans, it blows every imitation out the water.
Whether Mama Loco has an unspoken ‘brown person’ policy or not, it was an interesting example of what is presumably young, hip entrepreneurs with their eye on alcohol profits riding a wave of ethnic cool. Good luck with that.
I’m still in the hazy aftermath of almost three months of planning and fundraising and today was a day filled with distractions. Without a car, I end up catching rides with friends and sitting in on some pretty random adventures. Yesterday I witnessed a cow running loose in Otara. Today I wiled away waiting time watching Jenna Marbles’ video “What are this” on repeat.
There’s something about being a passenger that makes me want to drink and I’m still a little bit on that celebration flow. I probably drank one can too many this afternoon before coming home for a Tongan massage from my partner’s father. I subconsciously do this – before getting tattooed or massaged – that little bit of alcohol in my system seems to amplify pain and I DON’T KNOW WHY I KEEP DOING IT.
Tu’i massages remind me of all the physiotherapy and chiropractor therapy I’ve had but harder. I’d say it’s deep tissue but it feels like sometimes he touches bone. My god, it hurts. It hurts real bad, and today it was almost unbearable. But Oh Em Gee when it’s done, I literally feel… Remarkable – like there’s electricity surging through my veins. I could honestly skip down my street; I feel ah-mazing. With my back cracked and a body fully charged with secret stores of muscle magic, I feel well prepared for this weekend’s 14-hour flight to Vancouver.
I’m thankful for Tu’i, for sharing the art of Tongan healing massage with me, and for our long broken English conversations about babies (i.e when will I produce his son’s children), work stories (a work ethic of epic proportions) and famili.
After the massage we all ate steak and watched Cops. A perfect Friday night.
I love reading Luvvie Ajayi‘s writing and have taken up the challenge to blog everyday in August as part of her #31WriteNow challenge!
I’m always in the throws of multiple simultaneous art projects, and August will be a cocktail of travel, speaking engagements, event planning, pitching and assignment writing. I’m drawn to the #31WriteNow challenge because I’m 31 right now, and life is pretty good!
I’ve come to the tail end of the #2girls1conference fundraising campaign – an epic journey with my art ally, Leilani Kake. Through crowdfunding, hand-printed art t-shirts and an amazing art auction, we managed to raise NZ$8000 in two months! We hosted our final event last night – an opportunity for our community here in South Auckland to hear the papers we’re delivering next week at the Pacific Arts Association (PAA) 11th International Symposium in Vancouver. It was a good night – we loved situating that kind of event / discourse right at the grassroots and we’re super grateful to the Otara Scorpions for hosting us. Thanks also to Kolokesa Māhina-Tuai, the other PAA speaker from South Auckland, who also delivered her paper last night. Kolokesa is sharp as a knife; the kind of curator I’m proud to be associated with!
Leilani and I are so excited to be leaving for Canada this weekend. Despite this not being a holiday, it’ll just be nice to get out of New Zealand albeit briefly. I still want to see a bear, but I’m not sure if that will make it onto the itinerary.
I’ve been thinking about acknowledging all the people who contributed to the #2girls1conference campaign – I’m compiling the list. It’s pretty massive. I’ll be blogging everyday in August, so watch this space!