Wellington – Pacific islanders have taken to social media to slam a US company after it trademarked the Fijian greeting “bula”, describing the move as cultural theft.
Florida businessman Ross Kashtan — who owns a trio of bars known as Bula Kafe, Bula on the Beach and Bula Cocoa Beach — attracted widespread criticism after he trademarked the word “bula” earlier this month.
“The restrictive use of the word through this trademark goes against everything ‘bula’ stands for,” Fijian Save Gasaiwai posted Sunday on the Bula on the Beach Facebook page.
“More importantly, I believe this whole debacle also speaks to a broader issue of entitlement that White people have over indigenous cultures and the selective way they pick and choose when they want to exploit our culture and intellectual property.”
There was an uproar last month when a Chicago-based company trademarked the traditional Hawaiian greeting “aloha” and sent cease-and-desist letters to US restaurants using the term.
Tongan-born Tevita O Ka’ili, an associate professor of anthropology at Brigham Young University in Hawaii, wrote in an online message to Pacific people that they were “witnessing a clear pattern of cultural theft”.
“Last month, it was ‘aloha’. This month is ‘bula’. Next month… ‘talofa’ (Samoa) or ‘malo e lelei’ (Tonga).”
Josiah Tualamali’i, who chairs a New Zealand Pasifika youth charity, urged people to give one-star reviews to Kashtan’s bars.
“I just thought ‘well they have 4.9 as their overall rating so let’s pull that back a bit’,” Tualamali’i told Radio New Zealand.
“We know they are listening because they removed my comment and some others, so this has got to them and that was the point.
“They are trying to steal something that doesn’t belong to them. It really has to end.”