Jan 31, 2013

The Trademarking of Fijian Cultural Imagery

The key rationale for protesting Air Pacific's ill-advised attempt to register traditional Fijian masi design and imagery (kesakesa) as it's own trademarks,  is that this is a blatant attempt to steal and control the use of elementary historic and cultural patterns forged for thousands of years by Fijian tradition and cultural heritage.

It follows that this action has caused great indignation and offense to indigenous Fijians.

To discuss, it is necessary to have some understanding of Fijian culture and protocols to avoid offense.

This includes, for example, an understanding of the concept of 'tabu'. Tabu can be interpreted as "sacred", or defined as "spiritual restriction" or "implied prohibition", containing a strong imposition of rules and prohibitions - implied , inherent  or otherwise.

Like the NZ Maori who consider protocols and actions associated with  “rangatira (chief)” and patterns and imagery associated with their traditional “whakairo (carving) , 'tapu" or "tabu", so do we in Fiji associate traditional imagery from all our provinces of Fiji "tabu" or "sacred" in the sense that this belongs to us all and cannot be taken away carte blanche, or in bits to be relegated to someone or something's sole use.

Like Māori and other Pacific Island Cultures, Fijians attribute their spiritual and cultural importance to certain expressions, imagery, totems and locations - all of which have
purpose and meaning. 

In the case of the living art form of tapa making, Fijians from every province of Fiji draw from given traditional creativity to visually represent imprints of their life forces, their ancestors mana , their totems & deities, their spiritual lore, and their mana.

Tapa making is a ritual , valued for it's exchange and commodity value, and plays a key role in historically dependent social relations. 

The determination, thought, and placement  that goes into our masi kesa plays a central role in how we indigenous Fijians clarify, retain , fine-tune and amend tradition in relation to shifting historical, fiscal and social contexts, which in turn shapes our social identity.

Tapa design as representative of our culture is OMNIPRESENT.

The making of masi incorporates the vanua and imprints meaning. The use of geometric designs and repetitive linear lines is prominent in traditional masi making.

Our kesakesa have travelled through generations . Fijian artisans should be able to take what is traditionally handed down to us and freely create what is their right to do so.

To use our cultural symbolism in meaningful and tasteful ways to promote Fiji,  our pride and our culture is acceptable to most, so long as you do not attempt to claim it as your own.

It is ridiculous in the extreme to suggest you can trademark a traditional vertical squiggle or a diamond shape just because someone commissioned a design for the tail of a 21st century corporate aluminum bird.

In considering the approach by Air Pacific to shoplift and loot a traditional Fijian concept (which actually mirrors the Fiji regime's current attempts to pilfer and trample upon the whole of the Fijian society and culture) , the World Intellectual Property Organization would be wise to take advice in regards to whether the attempt to register the  trademarks in question are prudent - where it is either:

    •    not offensive to indigenous Fijians
    •    not likely to be offensive to indigenous Fijians
    •    likely to be offensive to indigenous Fijians , or
    •    offensive to indigenous Fijians

I note that Fiji is a signatory to the WIPO and the Vienna classification system. How far advanced they are in the scheme is yet to be seen, but rest assured, letters will be heading to the WIPO now and to the other Pacific Island Cultural watchdog associations to ask for international pressure in regards to this issue.
Vienna classification
Where a sign contains an image, the image classified according to the Vienna Classification. The Vienna Classification system is a numbering system developed by the World Intellectual Property Organization to describe trade mark representations. The system aids in effective searching of trade marks which consist of, or contain, pictorial representations, words presented in a special form, ornamental motifs or other figurative elements. 

(Under the  New Zealand classification for instance , where a sign contains Māori imagery, appropriate New Zealand specific descriptors have been assigned. Examiners use the classification as a guide to assist in determining whether or not the device under consideration could be a Māori device. If so,  advise will be taken in regards to whether the attempt to register a trademark in question is advisable.)

Of course Bainimarama and his clown prince consort don't give a whit about trampling on our rights , so whats another attempt to take away another traditional liberty eh?

OR let's see what we can do about it.

FOOTNOTE : United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples

Note Article 31
"Indigenous peoples have the right to maintain, control, protect and develop their cultural heritage, traditional knowledge and traditional cultural expressions, as well as the manifestations of their sciences, technologies and cultures, including human and genetic resources, seeds, medicines, knowledge of the properties of fauna and flora, oral traditions, literatures, designs, sports and traditional games and visual and performing arts. They also have the right to maintain, control, protect and develop their intellectual property over such cultural heritage, traditional knowledge, and traditional cultural expressions."

"In conjunction with indigenous peoples, States shall take effective measures to recognize and protect the exercise of these  rights."

Email me at : veekaybee@gmail.com so as we can draw up a list of world authorities and opinion makers we can write to, to highlight this attempt at cultural theft / curtailment of traditional rights by Air Pacific and the military junta in Fiji.


Discombobulated Bubu said...

I have received several requests for the link to the Fiji Times ads placed. Here it is :


Also to those of you wondering about adding your comments to media please feel free on the following :





As I said in my piece, "
"To use our cultural symbolism in meaningful and tasteful ways to promote Fiji, our pride and our culture is acceptable to most, so long as you do not attempt to claim it as your own.""

Just to be clear what we object to is the attempt to claim our elementary designs as Air Pacific's own.

This is TABU and objectionable.

Discombobulated Bubu said...

This is the petition you are all urged to sign. Vinaka


BudBook said...

Bula vinaka Bubu...wananavu everything