When we think of the taumoko, tatau, pe’a, malu and in more modern times the sleeve, we think of the small intricate patterns interwoven together to create these masterpieces which reflect our culture, our tradition and our pride in our heritage. These patterns were inherited from our ancestors, passed down through generations and although they are similar throughout the Pacific Islands they are distinct to each culture in their appearance and meaning.
Now imagine that these could not be used freely by the people of Pacific as a tattoo design, tapa/Masi design, art piece, sculpture, or as a design on clothing, you were no longer able to use them or see them at celebrations of weddings, birthdays, graduations, ceremonies or funerals.
Now Imagine they were owned and trademarked by a corporation and you had to ask permission to use them or even pay a licensing fee for these.
This is the case for the 15 distinct Fijian Masi motifs below.
Fijian airline, Air Pacific rebranded as ‘Fiji Airways’ engaged celebrated local Fijian Masi artist Makereta Matmosi to develop the Masi symbol for their new identity.
Matmosi created a unique Masi symbol for ‘Fiji Airways’, “The circle has four crosses in the corners that indicate interconnection, like Fiji Airways connects people to the island.” A logo Air Pacific feels “embodies the spirit of the nation; it is something pure and hand-made that truly reflects the Fijian people, their culture, and the airline’s transformation.”
Air Pacific trademarked the ‘Fiji Airways’ logo in July 2012.
Air Pacific Trademark adverts - Fiji Times pages 46 & 47, 25th January 2013
On the 25th of January 2013, Air Pacific applied formally to the Registrar of Trademarks/ Solicitor General to exercise ownership or trademark rights over 15 of Fiji’s disctinct Masi motifs.
If the application is granted this gives Air Pacific/ Fiji Airways exclusive ownership and authority over these motifs and will limit cultural expression in Fiji. Air Pacific will then be able to license and charge for the use of these motifs as they see fit. These cultural expressions and motifs which have existed for generations and used freely by all Fijian and Pacific people including tattooists, Masi makers, craftspeople, fashion designers and artists will then be owned by a single corporate entity.
Air Pacific plan to use these motifs on the exterior of their planes, on livery, uniforms, bags and other merchandise.
The support and applaud is there for Air Pacific/Fiji Airways to showcase the Fijian culture and use the motifs, but the trademark application is what is in question.
In an attempt to prevent corporations like Air Pacific taking action like this in the future, a petition is being run asking that PM Bainimarama direct the Attorney General to review Fiji’s laws and to ensure protection of these masi motifs and other forms of traditional knowledge and cultural expression, from exploitation by foreign and commercial entities, and to ensure they remain freely available in the public domain for the future generations.
If you would like to object and SIGN the petition and SHARE please click here.
You are also able to view what additional actions you can take to show your disapproval including writing letters and emails. Details are at the bottom of the petition page.
To join the Facebook page and support the cause please click here.
The deadline for objections is the 19th of April 2013. Before this date copies of the petition will be delivered to the Prime Minister and Attorney General and Solicitor General/Registrar of Trademarks.
Whether or not you are Fijian, a stand is imperative to prevent applications from corporations like this trying to claim our cultural heritage and to encourage the Pacific governments to step in and sanction legislations to protect our Pacific symbols.
Special mentions to Pax Viti for organising the petition and Lice Movono Rova for co-ordinating most of the efforts to fight this application and raise the awareness.