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August 14, 2017 | by  | in One Ocean |
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One Ocean

YouTube comments sections are a lot of fun. Some people get so extra about the most trivial things, and there’s always that account that you just know is trolling. Which is cool…

…until it’s your cultural practices and indigenous art forms that are being degraded.

That’s how I felt last week when I was watching videos of traditional Melanesian dance routines. I grew up in Polynesia, and therefore my knowledge has, until now, not included a lot of the amazing, vibrant, creative art forms of my mother’s side of the Pacific. There I was, trying to learn, when comments like “cover up!” and “put some on, gals!” appeared. For those of us who might not be too familiar with Melanesian rituals: a myriad of them do not require women to cover their breasts. This is simply because, unlike in the West, women’s chests were not seen as “sexual” in much of the Pacific for several hundred years. These comments came from people who still think it right to ethnocentrically superimpose their “Western”, “educated”, “civilised” blah, blah, blah ways on dances, chants, legends, paintings, and ceremonies that have deep spiritual, familial, and historical roots.

Reading comments about “these women” made me feel like my culture wasn’t mine anymore. I could no longer define it or choose what it was (and wasn’t) about.

But our Oceania, Pasifika, whatever you want to call our region, belongs to us. The social and cultural narratives that it abounds with are our stories, about our lives. Our traditional tattoos are about us. Our costumes are about us. Our languages are about us. Even our freakin YouTube channels are about us!

Our lives are about us. It’s time we started reclaiming them

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