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Author Topic: Cultural Appropriation vs Loving the Land  (Read 924 times)

Aster Breo

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Cultural Appropriation vs Loving the Land
« on: March 25, 2018, 06:09:32 pm »
We've had many discussions over the years about cultural appropriation.  But I'm interested in input on a particular aspect: within the context of cultural appropriation, is there a distinction between the  place itself and the indigenous culture of that place?

I've been to Hawai'i only twice, both times for work, for a total of about a month and a half.  I fell absolutely in love with it almost immediately, which I didn't expect.  I mean, I knew it would be beautiful, but I'm not really a beach person, so I didn't expect to feel like I'd come home -- which is exactly what happened.

While there and after leaving, I took every opportunity I had to learn about native Hawai'ian culture and the tragic history of colonization and oppression. But I understand that I will never be a part of that culture. Even if I do ever move there and become involved with native Hawai'ian activities, I'll always be a guest and ally.

That said, I love the islands themselves -- their beauty, vibrancy, colors, plants and animals, geology (hey, volcanoes are super cool!), and the amazing feeling of calm and peace there.  As I said, I felt at home there in a way I've never felt anywhere else.  Five years later, that has not faded at all.

This is top-of-mind for me right now because I'm considering a tattoo of a spray of Hawai'ian flowers.

I do think there's a distinction between a place and the native culture of that place.  In tattoo terms, that's the difference between a tat of the flora/fauna found on the islands or of the islands themselves (like a map) and a tat using Hawai'ian cultural symbols (e.g., Maui's fishhook, specific geometric patterns, words in the Hawai'ian language).  I think the first tattoo would not be cultural appropriation, while the second (on me) would.

I'm very interested in other perspectives before I commit to a tattoo of Hawai'ian flowers.

What do you think? Would such a tattoo cross the cultural appropriation line?

Thanks for your thoughts!

~ Aster
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Re: Cultural Appropriation vs Loving the Land
« Reply #1 on: March 25, 2018, 06:23:32 pm »

What do you think? Would such a tattoo cross the cultural appropriation line?

Thanks for your thoughts!

~ Aster

There is no line.  I would just get the tat and not bother myself with the opinions of anyone who disapproves. 

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Re: Cultural Appropriation vs Loving the Land
« Reply #2 on: March 25, 2018, 06:56:06 pm »
What do you think? Would such a tattoo cross the cultural appropriation line?

Someone out there will likely say so, and you'll have to prepare yourself for those reactions, but as someone who spent 10 formative years of their life living in Hawai'i and as someone who knows you pretty well...I say nope!

There is an argument to be made (and if you ask any of my professors from First Nations Studies this is likely what they'd say) that there's no separation between the land and the people on it; land is life, land is people. We don't reside on the land but separate from it; we're a part of it (whether we realize it or not) and it's a part of us.

That said, the people don't have any say over whom the land calls home. If it calls you home, it calls you home. It's still up to you to make sure you conduct the relationship with respect to other relationships the land has (which I know, from knowing you, that you have), but in the long run, other people don't have a say over whom the land chooses. Even if they had a prior relationship with that land.

(It's like if I suddenly decided I could tell my best friend who she can be friends with, just because we've been friends for 22 years. Nope. So long as her new friends aren't dicks to me, I have no say.)

So in my opinion, a tattoo of flora or fauna of the land does not cross the cultural appropriation line. (Though I personally would be careful when it comes to certain things like the birds whose feathers were used to make cloaks for the ali'i. Wearing of those feathers or colors by non-ali'i was considered seriously kapu.)

Out of curiosity, will you be getting a tattoo of flowers endemic (that is, found only there) to Hawai'i, or indigenous species (found there and elsewhere)?
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Re: Cultural Appropriation vs Loving the Land
« Reply #3 on: March 25, 2018, 10:57:50 pm »
I say nope!

Basically seconding what Morag said. Unless the imagery or items depicted have deep cultural associations, it's not cultural appropriation.
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Re: Cultural Appropriation vs Loving the Land
« Reply #4 on: March 25, 2018, 11:16:31 pm »
I do think there's a distinction between a place and the native culture of that place.  In tattoo terms, that's the difference between a tat of the flora/fauna found on the islands or of the islands themselves (like a map) and a tat using Hawai'ian cultural symbols (e.g., Maui's fishhook, specific geometric patterns, words in the Hawai'ian language).  I think the first tattoo would not be cultural appropriation, while the second (on me) would.

I'm very interested in other perspectives before I commit to a tattoo of Hawai'ian flowers.

What do you think? Would such a tattoo cross the cultural appropriation line?

Thanks for your thoughts!

~ Aster

I think it depends on if the symbols have specific meanings to the culture in question. For example, the reason Plains culture headdresses are so controversial, is because they are not just clothes, they are sacred objects awarded for certain accomplishments, and wearing one without achieving anything is insulting and demeaning. On the other hand, I think moccasins are freely traded and are available for purchase (but buy them from reputable creators).

I'm guessing that it is the same in Hawai'i. Certain tattoo symbols may be reserved for people who have achieved great feats. But others may be purely decorative. In the first case, best not to get one. In the second case there should be no problem at all.

Aster Breo

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Re: Cultural Appropriation vs Loving the Land
« Reply #5 on: March 26, 2018, 12:59:13 am »
Out of curiosity, will you be getting a tattoo of flowers endemic (that is, found only there) to Hawai'i, or indigenous species (found there and elsewhere)?

What part of Hawai'i did you live in?

I'm definitely avoiding any of the patterns or symbols that have cultural significance (that I'm aware of).  No geometric patterns, no fishhook, no gourds, no feathers.  The tat I'm thinking of is only flowers, too, no animals, so no problems there -- so many of Hawai'i's beautiful animals are sacred, and for good reason.

I'm considering plants that make me think of Hawai'i, not flowers that are only found in Hawai'i.  What I'd like to do, if the artist can pull it off, is have a flower represent each of the 8 major islands, placed in their relative positions within the tattoo:

    Hawaii Island:  red anthurium flower
    Kaho’olawe:  pink mimosa pudica, aka touch-me-not, shameplant
    Maui:  yellow-orange hibiscus with red center (the pistol of the flower would be the smaller section of the island on the northern end)
    Lana’i: purple tibouchina urvilleana with red bud, aka princess flower, glory bush (the bud would be north-northwest part of the island)
    Moloka’i: red ohia lehua flower
    O’ahu:  white plumeria with yellow center
    Kaua’i:  purple water lily
    Ni’ihau:  white naupaka

Those are all flowers that I spent time with while I was there, and, therefore, remind me of Hawai'i whenever I see them.  Those are the ones I want to honor. specifically.

The one I'm on the fence about is the taro leaf.  I'd like to use it because of some interactions I had with it when I was last there (it's VERY friendly and mischievous!), but I know it's important to the native culture.  I'm not sure if it has religious significance, or if it's important because it was such a crucial food crop.  I need to do a little more research on that, but accurate info about Hawai'ian culture and spirituality is incredibly hard to find online, as opposed to all the BS fake kahuna crap. 

If I felt it was OK to include taro, I'd probably put that in for Hawai'i Island, instead of the anthurium.  Any thoughts on that?  On ti leaves?

I"m still open to ideas, if you have any.  My consultation with the artist is Saturday.
« Last Edit: March 27, 2018, 11:13:22 am by SunflowerP »
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Re: Cultural Appropriation vs Loving the Land
« Reply #6 on: March 26, 2018, 10:48:38 am »
What part of Hawai'i did you live in?

I'm definitely avoiding any of the patterns or symbols that have cultural significance (that I'm aware of).  No geometric patterns, no fishhook, no gourds, no feathers.  The tat I'm thinking of is only flowers, too, no animals, so no problems there -- so many of Hawai'i's beautiful animals are sacred, and for good reason.

I'm considering plants that make me think of Hawai'i, not flowers that are only found in Hawai'i.  What I'd like to do, if the artist can pull it off, is have a flower represent each of the 8 major islands, placed in their relative positions within the tattoo:

    Hawaii Island:  red anthurium flower
    Kaho’olawe:  pink mimosa pudica, aka touch-me-not, shameplant
    Maui:  yellow-orange hibiscus with red center (the pistol of the flower would be the smaller section of the island on the northern end)
    Lana’i: purple tibouchina urvilleana with red bud, aka princess flower, glory bush (the bud would be north-northwest part of the island)
    Moloka’i: red ohia lehua flower
    O’ahu:  white plumeria with yellow center
    Kaua’i:  purple water lily
    Ni’ihau:  white naupaka

Those are all flowers that I spent time with while I was there, and, therefore, remind me of Hawai'i whenever I see them.  Those are the ones I want to honor. specifically.

The one I'm on the fence about is the taro leaf.  I'd like to use it because of some interactions I had with it when I was last there (it's VERY friendly and mischievous!), but I know it's important to the native culture.  I'm not sure if it has religious significance, or if it's important because it was such a crucial food crop.  I need to do a little more research on that, but accurate info about Hawai'ian culture and spirituality is incredibly hard to find online, as opposed to all the BS fake kahuna crap. 

If I felt it was OK to include taro, I'd probably put that in for Hawai'i Island, instead of the anthurium.  Any thoughts on that?  On ti leaves?

I"m still open to ideas, if you have any.  My consultation with the artist is Saturday.

I think this is a lovely idea for a tattoo.

My personal 2 cents:  When it comes to plants/animals, I wouldn't say they are in any way cultural appropriation, unless you are specifically using them in symbolic ways (to take the example of specific plumage used in sacred dress, I wouldn't consider an image of the bird itself inappropriate, however a picture of the cloak made of that bird's feathers I would probably shy away from).  In regards to the taro plant, it sounds like you made a personal connection, and I think a tattoo honoring that is perfectly respectful.

As someone who also lived in Hawaii (on two separate occasions, for about ten years total), I definitely feel the Islands have a distinct call, and it is very possible for someone with no native Hawaiian blood to respond to it.  Hawaii will always be 'home' to me, and I also always felt welcomed and part of the local culture (not indigenous culture...but local, modern culture) while I was there, more than any other place I have ever lived.
« Last Edit: March 27, 2018, 11:12:38 am by SunflowerP »
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Morbid

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Re: Cultural Appropriation vs Loving the Land
« Reply #7 on: March 26, 2018, 04:24:24 pm »


What do you think? Would such a tattoo cross the cultural appropriation line?

Thanks for your thoughts!

~ Aster

I say if you like the thing go for it.
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MamaThistle

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Re: Cultural Appropriation vs Loving the Land
« Reply #8 on: March 27, 2018, 03:09:56 pm »


What do you think? Would such a tattoo cross the cultural appropriation line?


I agree with everyone who has posted about the tattoo. It depends on your intention and I think you have the right one.

As far as being a part of Hawai’ian culture, and you may already be aware of this, but most of Hawaii is technically outside of native Hawai’ian culture (only 6% are native). Hawaii is more of a melting pot than I think people realize. Native Hawai’ians are pretty protective of their culture( understandably), but-imo- there is nothing wrong with what you are doing.


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Aster Breo

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Re: Cultural Appropriation vs Loving the Land
« Reply #9 on: March 27, 2018, 04:26:55 pm »
As far as being a part of Hawai’ian culture, and you may already be aware of this, but most of Hawaii is technically outside of native Hawai’ian culture (only 6% are native). Hawaii is more of a melting pot than I think people realize. Native Hawai’ians are pretty protective of their culture( understandably), but-imo- there is nothing wrong with what you are doing.

Oh, yes -- I've done my best to educate myself about Hawai'ian culture, so I'm familiar with the demographics, history, and current tensions between people who are native to the islands and people who aren't.  I deeply respect the native culture and the current campaigns to protect sacred sites, as well as the efforts to reclaim Hawai'ian sovereignty.

That's why I'm sensitive to potential cultural appropriation.  Hawai'ian culture gets ripped off and used for humor and/or profit all the time.  I don't want to be a part of that.

What I DO want to do is honor the beauty of a land that I felt so welcome in and continue to feel so connected to, even though I don't understand why I feel that way, and to keep that feeling alive.  That's why I want to do this tattoo.

I really appreciate the input from everyone who has replied in this thread so far.  It's been very helpful.
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Re: Cultural Appropriation vs Loving the Land
« Reply #10 on: March 27, 2018, 04:33:00 pm »
Oh, yes -- I've done my best to educate myself about Hawai'ian culture, so I'm familiar with the demographics, history, and current tensions between people who are native to the islands and people who aren't.  I deeply respect the native culture and the current campaigns to protect sacred sites, as well as the efforts to reclaim Hawai'ian sovereignty.

I figured, just thought I would mention it. I agree that there is a lot of misrepresentation going on.


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Re: Cultural Appropriation vs Loving the Land
« Reply #11 on: March 27, 2018, 05:04:28 pm »
Oh, yes -- I've done my best to educate myself about Hawai'ian culture, so I'm familiar with the demographics, history, and current tensions between people who are native to the islands and people who aren't.  I deeply respect the native culture and the current campaigns to protect sacred sites, as well as the efforts to reclaim Hawai'ian sovereignty.

That's why I'm sensitive to potential cultural appropriation.  Hawai'ian culture gets ripped off and used for humor and/or profit all the time.  I don't want to be a part of that.

I think that given your research and careful avoidance of overstepping cultural boundaries, you should be fine- admittedly, you know a great deal more about the issues involved than I do. To seek a spiritual connection to the land on your own terms and in your own cultural context seems quite reasonable to me.

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