The misspelling of Kira Puru is not a simple blunder it’s a systemic issue

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The misspelling of Kira Puru is not a simple blunder it’s a systemic issue


Spilt Milk, the rising Canberra festival which has welcomed the likes of Lorde, Flume and Vance Joy since its 2016 genesis, recently announced their 2018 lineup, headlined by Childish Gambino.

It’s a bill which continues the festival’s evolution into a blossoming indie celebration, yet there was an error, which was overlooked, through human error or obliviousness.

Kira Puru’s name was spelt wrong. On the video unveiling the lineup, Spilt Milk revealed that “Kira Piru” would be taking to the stage. In the past, it may have been passed off as a simple typo, a blunder that the editor overlooked but would cause no commotion.

Then Puru called it out, and those who caused the mistake were quickly retracing their steps.

“I consider this behaviour racist microaggression”, Puru wrote in a Twitter post since taken down. “I am going to use this opportunity to ask y’all to get it RIGHT. IT’s Kira MFKN Puru and if you misspell it, I’m going to make you double my paycheck.”

The festival director got in touch with Puru to apologise for their oversight — a simple resolution to bridge the rupture. A simple resolution it is, but did it hit home? 

It’s not the first time Puru’s name has been spelt wrong. Announced to perform at Listen Out’s 2018 instalment, the festival made the same spelling mistake in their launch video.

Two festivals misstep and the issue doesn’t seem so significant but for Puru, it’s more profound. It’s been a common thread throughout her career and for so long she has brushed it under the carpet.

“The misspelling of my name is something that has happened consistently throughout my career, it happens in emails, in contracts, on posters and in promotional material. It matters to me not only because it’s the name of my business but also because it is a representation of my family and cultural history,” Puru wrote on Facebook.

“I have spent YEARS letting it slide as a simple mistake, and more years gently nudging back and saying “oh its actually Puru” in a private email or text message,” she continued. “Yet here I am playing really great festivals at national level and it is still happening.”

We see a spelling mistake on the frontpage of the Herald Sun or The Age and we giggle at the blooper, deeming it a one-off, a minor blunder from an editor who’d had a long day, who’s pen went astray.

But it could be far more significant. When attributed to names and heritage, there’s an insensitivity to the mistake even if the plea is one of simple oversight.

In the same week that Puru alerted Spilt Milk’s indiscretion, SBS World Cup presenter Lucy Zelic was responding to attacks on her pronunciations of players’ names at the tournament.

After co-host Craig Foster praised her resolve in the wake of widespread social media abuse, the pair choked back tears on-air during the live broadcast of the event.

Throughout the tournament, Zelic has made a point of saying players’ names the way they would be pronounced in their home country, which she noted was out of respect to the legacy left behind by Les Murray, the late doyen of football broadcasting in Australia.

“It means a lot to me first and foremost because of the legacy that Les put in place,” Zelic said on the broadcast.

“It’s also the sentiment behind it, which is you’re not pronouncing it for anybody other than the nation you’re covering and out of respect to them. You’re pronouncing it for them.”

That’s it. For Zelic, the correct pronunciations come out of respect to those who carry those names, for those who deserve the same recognition as people with “Smith” or “Brown” tacked on the end.

The same can be said for Puru who shouldn’t be distinguished because of her reputation, gender or race. The blunder may have been a simple oversight on Spilt Milk’s part, nevertheless, the issue is systemic — it’s hampered Puru since her career first begun while other artists, such as neo soul singer Ngaiire, have also been blighted.

The music industry is diversifying, festival lineups are expanding and the need for equality is finally striking a tender nerve, however, mistakes such as this bring us back into line. Continue on your merry way, punters and music professionals alike, but for the good of the industry, take merit from your misdemeanours and channel the learnings.