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NZ businesses continue to appropriate Māori culture

Media Release

Date: January 03 2019

New Zealand businesses continue to culturally appropriate Māori culture in their marketing.

Karaitiana Taiuru a PhD candidate at Awanuiarangi and a Māori Trademarks advisor believes that cultural appropriation of Māori has become normalised over multiple generations by New Zealand businesses. He goes on to state, that we cannot directly blame the businesses, but we need to learn from these experiences and deploy better protection mechanisms and new partnerships to stop appropriation. Firstly, it starts with a business wanting to be a good corporate citizen in New Zealand.

Cultural Appropriation is an international issue that is being debated and fought by all Indigenous Peoples. In New Zealand, the government has a part to play with advancing discussions with Wai262. Individuals, whanau and Iwi are in a position of power as they can show disregard with their wallets and using social media such as Facebook. Karaitiana Taiuru believes it is more beneficial to all New Zealanders that advertising should consult Māori and consider other cultures.

Karaitiana has recently identified a number of businesses who are culturally appropriating Māori culture. Many companies remove offending items when they are made aware of it. But with the larger companies it is often difficult to be listened to or contact someone with decision making responsibilities.

Companies recently identified include:

Kapiti Cheese, a brand owned by Fonterra have named a cheese after a famous Māori ancestor of the Kapiti area Tuteremoana. According to Kaumatua Ross Himona, Tuteremoana was the most famous descendant of Tara, eponymous ancestor of the Ngai Tara tribe. He lived nineteen or twenty generations ago.

Karaitiana Taiuru assumes the Kapiti Cheese used the name as it is also a popular landmark, but that landmark is named after the same ancestor, a personification. He read one mother expressing hurt that her children who are descendants of Tuteremoana were worried they would be eating their ancestor. It is not difficult to fact check names in New Zealand and businesses should be doing this as a part of their Q and A.

Some BP petrol stations offering organic coffee and advertising coffee branded with the Māori deity of fertility - Tiki. Karaitiana Taiuru says this should be labeled as false advertising as the coffee does not make you fertile, and if it does then a disclaimer needs to accompany the coffee.

Titoki Whiskey bottle represents the god of fertility Tiki as well. Titoki claims to be a traditional Māori alcohol that used traditional Māori medicines and was used by ancient spirits. Despite the fact that European settlers introduced alcohol and there was no traditional alcohol.

The Warehouse are showing television adverts with the Māori god of fertility Tiki on shopping bags. There is no relevance to the products available at The Warehouse.

The god of fertility Tiki has been appropriated for so many years, that he has become a national identity by non Māori to represent Māori. We can’t stop the past wrong’s, but we can stop future appropriation. It is never too late to right the wrongs of the past said Karaitiana Taiuru


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