Pranpriya Manobal or Lisa Blackpink is one of the biggest K-Pop stars in the world. She’s also Thai.
On 10 September, she released her much anticipated solo single “Lalisa.” It already has some 117 million views.
And, of course, controversies ensued.
The single features the chorus line, “Protect it like a barrier.” In the music video, Lisa dances with baton-wielding crowd control police. We Thais link it to the pro-democracy protests and the string of clashes between youths on motorbikes and the police.
Another controversy is Lisa wearing the traditional “Chada” headdress. Conservatives slam her for degrading Thailand’s culture. In a surprising move, however, the Ministry of Culture applauds the usage of the “Chada,” commending Lisa for “promoting Thai culture” worldwide.
It’s interesting to analyze what Thai culture is? For example, what ownership do we have of a headdress, a shirt, or anything else?
What does Thailand own culturally?
Is it the “Chada” headdress that we borrowed from the Khmer culture?
Is it the Indian “Raja” pattern shirt, Khmer “Jong Kraben” loincloth, and
European long white socks that General Prayut Chan-o-cha and conservative politicians love to cosplay to?
Is it the Sanskrit alphabet we adapted from the Indian subcontinent?
Is it the Hindu-Buddhist religious tradition we borrowed from Sri Lanka through the Khmer Empire?
If we take the linear history and assume the Sukhotai Kingdom is the origin of the Thai civilization. Sukhothai’s founding date is 1238, which makes the Thai civilization very young.
All we are and all we have is a mixture of many different cultures, mostly Khmer, Indian, and Sri Lankan. This includes the tradition of the Thai Kingship.
So what is it that we own culturally?
Why do we get so angry when someone appropriates something that we did not create or originate?