Imitation, Inspiration or Appropriation?
2006 has seen a rash of advertising and design taking inspiration – with varying degrees of offensiveness – from Maori art and culture. An Italian ad for the Fiat Idea showing a group of black garbed women performing a mock haka has gone to air despite warnings of cultural insensitivity from NZ diplomats. According to Brad Tattersfield of NZ’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, “we advised the advertising company that the use of Ka Mate in this way was culturally insensitive and inappropriate. MFAT advised the advertisers to either use a Maori group or a haka composed for women. However, the advertising company indicated they were proceeding despite this advice.” In the US, an American developer’s proposal to build a Maori-themed apartment complex in Texas has divided Maori opinion. While activist Ken Mair calls the plan “cultural theft and possibly theft of intellectual property” author Alan Duff thinks Maori have bigger problems to worry about: “Greece is not up in arms because Las Vegas did Ancient Greece themes in their casinos. Why are we so precious about things that don’t count?” Finally, cult US fashion brand Paul Frank has released a T-shirt print titled ‘Warrior Julius,’ depicting its distinctive monkey mascot with a full facial moko.