A few months ago, there was a flurry of articles making the rounds, suggesting Tiki is problematic and a source of continued exploitation of Oceanic indigenous cultures. Many of these articles feature participants and supporters of Doom Tiki, a Tiki popup with Satanic imagery that seeks to call out Tiki’s aesthetic and take it to task. But I noticed perspectives from Tiki enthusiasts and historians were conspicuously missing in these articles, so I wrote a blog post where I asked questions and touched on some of the viewpoints I’d read. It stirred up quite a response, and I eventually wrote a follow up.
Fast forward to yesterday. I logged into Instagram and saw Doom Tiki tagged me in a public post, inviting me to participate in a future Zoom discussion about Tiki. Although I appreciate the invitation, I’m respectfully declining for the following reason:
When I wrote my original post, someone shared it in a private Tiki Facebook group, whose primary focus is to have “uncomfortable” discussions about Tiki. I was a member of this group, but because I hadn’t posted anything yet, I guess everyone forgot I joined. My post was ridiculed, and there were many hurtful and cruel comments from members of the group (including some Doom Tiki participants) directed at me personally.
So as one can imagine, my level of trust just isn’t there to the point where I can accept the invitation, at least, not at the moment. Having uncomfortable conversations goes both ways, but those are difficult when personal attacks are involved. I was simply offering a different way of looking at things and asking questions. Words can do a lot of damage, and they did so here. They also created an unpleasant tension during the subsequent panel I was on about the Island Girl, which was exacerbated by less-than-neutral moderating. Simply put, the experience I had is tough to forget.
What myself and many other Tiki enthusiasts enjoy and love goes beyond rum and Tiki mixology. It encompasses art, architecture, fashion, music— mixology and bar history is just a component of a larger passion. Mid-century Tiki is a unique sub-culture, and while Tiki enthusiasts love escapism, we also understand its underpinnings and origins and why they matter. I mean, we aren’t blind to the racism and sexism that existed during that time.
To Doom Tiki – I suggest opening that secret group to others with differing viewpoints, and seek out other Tiki enthusiasts who have respectfully questioned your stance on Tiki to be panelists in your Zoom discussions. It looks like this is in your immediate plans, which I applaud. There are many people who are well-versed in Tiki (more so than me) and can provide valuable insight, so you can understand our community’s perspective, something I felt authors at Punch and NYT completely chose to ignore. Even if there is no agreement, there could at least be understanding and respect.
Once again, I sincerely appreciate the invitation. I wish you well and hope 2021 brings better days ahead, both for your industry and in your future discussions and endeavors.