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Perspectives Poetry

Tiki Manifesto

Pacific poet Dan Taulapapa McMullin addresses the violent erasure and commodification of Oceania and its people under colonial rule.

May 22, 2023

Wood sculpture of a male figure or tiki

The poem “Tiki Manifesto” is paired here with this important male tiki from Mangareva. Wood images were fashioned to contain the supernatural power, or mana, of a variety of deities and were originally placed in sacred sites (known as marae) where communities gathered. In this poem, Dan Taulapapa McMullin addresses the appropriation and commoditization of tiki culture, speaking directly to the melancholy and anger that Polynesians feel when they encounter this complete misreading of Tiki, which dismisses and ignores their mana as vessels of the sacred.

Maia Nuku

“Tiki Manifesto” by Dan Taulapapa McMullin

Tiki mug, tiki mug 
My face, my mother’s face, my father’s face, my sister’s face 
Tiki mug, tiki mug 
White beachcombers in tiki bars drinking zombie cocktails from tiki mugs 
The undead, the Tiki people, my mother’s face, my father’s face 
The black brown and ugly to make customers feel white and beautiful 
Tiki mugs, tiki ashtrays, tiki trashcans, tiki kitsch cultures 
Tiki bars in Los Angeles, a tiki porn theatre, tiki stores 
Tiki conventions, a white guy named Kukulelei singing in oogabooga fake Hawaiian 
makes me yearn to hear a true Kanaka Maoli like Kaumakaiwa Kanaka'ole  
sing chant move her hands to the antidote to tiki bar people  
who don't listen because tiki don’t speak any language  
do they 
Tiki bars in L.A., in Tokyo, in the lands of Tiki, Honolulu, Pape’ete 
Wherever tourists need a background of black skin brown skin ugly faces  
to feel land of the free expensive rich on vacation hard working  
with a background of wallpaper tiki lazy people wallpaper  
made from our skins our faces our ancestors our blood 

Portrait of a person with short gray hair and a black shirt against a white background

Dan Taulapapa McMullin

Artist, Poet

Dan Taulapapa McMullin is an artist and poet from Sāmoa i Sasa'e (American Samoa). Taulapapa creates paintings, sculpture, video, and installation works. Their publications include a collection of poems entitled Coconut Milk (2013), a co-edited volume Samoan Queer Lives (2018), and the artist book The Healer’s Wound: A Queer Theirstory of Polynesia (2022). Their work has been shown at The Metropolitan Museum of Art and The Museum of Modern Art in New York; the de Young Museum in San Francisco; and the Museum of Contemporary Native Art in Santa Fe, New Mexico, as well as in Paris, Hawai’i, Los Angeles, and Auckland.

About the contributors

Artist and poet