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Emotiki app cultural analysis

Emotiki app cultural analysis: Mocking of a Māori deity, used a person’s image and ta moko without permission and other proposed Intellectual Property infringements.

Full report is online at

Digital Māori leader Karaitiana Taiuru has completed a cultural analysis of the mobile app Emotiki designed by Te Puia in Rotorua and has concluded that it contains a number of culturally unsafe issues: the satirical use of a Polynesian deity Tiki, Tame Iti and the use of his face and tā moko without permission, several other possible ethical and tikanga issues including possible Intellectual Property infringements.

The primary face of the Emotiki app is based on the Polynesian fertility deity of Tiki which is offensive to not just Māori but across Polynesia.

Other cultures and religions find such behavior of using religious icons for satirical purposes unacceptable. In recent years we have seen terrorist attacks in France, a Kiwi ex pat jailed in Myamar and a Santa float in Christchurch taken out of the parade for similar offensive images says Karaitiana Taiuru.

The human faces share three sets of tā moko despite tā moko being personal to the user. Another moko appears very similar to Kereopa Te Rau of the Pai Mārire faith, who was convicted of the murder of Völkner at the Supreme Court at Napier in December 1871.

The kuia, Taiuru believes has a high resemblance to Te Puea Herangi and was also likely digitised and cortoonised from a photo online.

Other issues Karaitiana Taiuru pointed out are with tikanga and the placement of the head with food and with the fact that Māori MPs, Māori and government departments are showing public praise for the emotiki, including the Ministry of Primary Industries who made an offensive tweet prior to Christmas using the emotiki.

Taiuru concludes his analysis stating that he would like to see a Māori emoji set, but with more care for cultural safety and ethical integrity. Also to ensure a robust tikanga process in is place.


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