19 May

Chanel Should Apologise for ‘Boomerang’

The Arts Law Centre of Australia and the Indigenous Art Code have contacted Chanel to request an apology to Indigenous communities over their ‘boomerang’ product that was recently circulating on social media.

Both Arts Law and the Indigenous Art Code play important roles in Australia in protecting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists and the culture that is embodied in their work. Most recently we have worked alongside Federal MP Mr Bob Katter who proposed legislation to ban inauthentic Indigenous arts and crafts being sold in Australia.

This isn't law yet but reflects the strongly held views of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and is supported by most Australians.

The Indigenous Art Code and the Arts Law estimate that up to 80% of items being sold as legitimate Indigenous artworks and souvenirs in tourist shops and some galleries around Australia are actually inauthentic. This led to the launch of our 'Fake Art Harms Culture' campaign, which aims to ensure that products which are derived from Indigenous culture are made by or made with the consent of an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artist and their community.

Indigenous communities and individuals are custodians of culture and have rights and obligations to protect and maintain cultural knowledge and expression so that it can be passed on to future generations. Producing an art product or merchandise without that consent breaches the community’s custodial rights. These are recognised both locally and internationally through the 2006 United Nations Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

The Chanel boomerang is a very expensive example of a fake or inauthentic product. In this very real sense, misappropriated and ‘fake art’ tangibly harms culture. It also potentially deprives a community of economic benefits through official licensing or distribution agreements.

 Ironically, intellectual property is what makes the Chanel brand strong. It is recognised all over the world and Chanel regularly takes action against infringements. In this context we asked that Chanel make a heartfelt apology to Aboriginal and Torres Islander people for the offence caused, remove the Chanel boomerang from circulation and make a contribution to a cause in Australia which supports Indigenous Cultural practices.

 “The ecosystem, the environment we live in is full of natural resources. Our art is our resource, it belongs to us we use it in a ceremonial context; it is a resource for our survival. If control of that resource is taken away from us, we cannot meet our cultural obligations; we cannot use it for our families benefit. Exploiting our resource needs to be negotiated on our terms, we need to have control of how that’s done” Banduk Marika, Yolngu Artist

Chanel is in a position of power and influence to acknowledge the cultural rights of Indigenous peoples. We hope they take this opportunity to do this and even set an example for others to do the same.