du Fresne on cultural appropriation


A couple of weeks ago, I took part in a flagrant act of cultural appropriation. So did several thousand other people.

We watched a Christmas parade. Santa Claus was in it, complete with mock reindeer. 

Most of the floats were decorated with Christmas symbols: fake snow, tinsel, stuff like that. A brass band played traditional English carols.

How did we get away with it? It could only be because the simple provincial folk in the town where I live are ignorant of, or callously indifferent to, sensitivities surrounding cultural ownership. 

Santa Claus is a figure derived from northern European folklore. What right do we in the remote Southwest Pacific have to place him at the centre of our Christmas celebrations?

This is true. Just as kids can no longer play cowboys and indians as it is culturally insensitive, Christmas must also fail by the same standard.

Sleighs? Ditto. Christmas trees and holly too. 

These are the cultural property of people from distant lands. Those ridiculous fake antlers that shop assistants are made to wear – did we spare a thought for the people of Lapland, for whom reindeer are a taonga? No, we didn’t. 

And carols! How dare we sing about Good King Wenceslas or the Holly and the Ivy? What inflated sense of entitlement makes us think we can endlessly plagiarise Silent Night (Austrian) or O Holy Night (French)?

We should be ashamed.

Cultural appropriation must be rooted out in all its forms.

All those New Zealand reggae bands, for a start. There’s cultural appropriation right there, big time. Maori object when the haka or the tiki is ripped off, but doesn’t the same principle apply when Maori bands appropriate Jamaican music? 

Banning NZ reggae bands can only be a good thing!

And on that subject, who ever said it was culturally acceptable for white musicians to play the blues? Innumerable middle-class Brits (stand up, Eric Clapton) have grown rich ripping off black men’s music. Jazz? The same.

St Patrick’s Day, which New Zealanders use as an excuse to get drunk and pretend to be Irish, is a cultural outrage. Guy Fawkes? English. Halloween? Celtic. They should be abandoned, all of them. 

It’s a hard life living in these politically correct times.

Comments (82)

Login to comment or vote

Add a Comment

%d bloggers like this: