Incoming Rant: You’ve heard this before. I just need to rant for a moment after reading a “Hawaiian” character in a contemporary novel I picked up. (Book is by no one I know or the genres I write in). It’s not about the book, just in general 😀
I don’t think writing a person of a different culture is appropriation but do some research.
And understand that there are things probably shouldn’t written about because of a lack of intrinsic knowledge of those struggles. That’s just my opinion. I feel it’s exploitive.
Dressing up as or liking Moana isn’t appropriation. Shit, it’s not even representative of a single culture. If anything, we Polynesians should be pissed off because we were put in a blender and Disney made a movie out of it.
So, I’ll write you a note to give you permission if you like.
Selling “tattoo sleeves” with native tattoo markings printed on them IS appropriation. Don’t buy those. Don’t take lava rocks from Hawai’i. Those are Pele’s.
Understand that modern Hawai’i is still a stew of different cultures and we respect one another. Many of us are mutts of many cultures so we are all mixed, even if we’re not because we share a common environment. It’s why there’s spam musubi being sold at the 7-11s and you can buy saimin at McDonald’s.
Hawaiians don’t (shouldn’t) care if you surf or learn hula or paddle canoe. We DO care if someone says poi is icky or that we didn’t have a language before the white people came. Learn and respect our culture. Gatekeeping doesn’t help anyone understand and appreciate different cultures. It’s how we gain compassion.
Poke bowls, however, are more Japanese than Hawaiian. Real poke is very tasty and marinated in for a bit to round out the flavours. It does taste different than the fast food chirashi. The Portuguese in Hawai’i make pasteles which are based in the Puerto Rican culture. But then ukueles and the sweet bread everyone likes are actually Portuguese. Hawai’i has a sort of Let God Sort It Out thing going when mingling cultures.
Poi however is a VERY SACRED food for us. We don’t care if you don’t like it, but treat it with respect. Did I mention the word SACRED?
ESPECIALLY if you’re going to put a Hawaiian character in your book. For the love of God, don’t have them bad-mouth poi. Or Spam. That’s just putting a plain brown paper wrap around a character and calling them Polynesian. Trust me when I say poi is the least icky food my people eat. We haven’t even touched on ake or okolehao.