Aug 9, 2011

Implement Wai262

The Dom Post highlights why the recommendations in the Wai262 report need to be implemented immediately: 

Maori are fighting a flood of cheap, mass-produced “Maori” souvenirs entering New Zealand before the Rugby World Cup, saying the tacky trinkets will leave tourists with a bad impression.

Contemporary Maori artists are banding together to hit out against overseas-made products, which they say mimic Maori tradition despite manufacturers having no links to the culture.

Iwi Art Gallery owner Tia Kirk (my whanaunga might I add) said lack of regulation meant “cheap and inferior” versions were easily available.

“This raises some concern for genuine New Zealand artists and creators of authentic Maori art whose work takes time to create and develop.” However, discerning tourists would easily be able to tell the difference, with real Maori artists using techniques that had evolved with years of training and expertise”, she said.

The WAI262 claim report from the Waitangi Tribunal, issued last month, recommended a commission be set up to hear objections about the use of taonga-derived works on art, with the power to stop commercial use if it was deemed “derogatory or offensive”.

The Waitangi Tribunal recommends the establishment of a commission with the power to regulate the use of Maori art and make decisions surrounding the traditional knowledge that underpins Maori art. According to Carwyn Jones the Tribunal distinguishes between taonga works and taonga derived works. Taonga works have whakapapa (ancestry) and, as a consequence, mauri (life force) and kaitiaki (guardians). Think along the lines of Haka, Waiata and art works. On the other hand taonga derived works possess a Maori element but are generalised, adapted or combined with a non-Maori element. Think along the lines of generic tattoos incorporating koru patterns.

The Tribunal is looking to strike a balance, and a delicate one at that. However, I tend to think the Tribunal is placing too much emphasis on private property rights rather than seeking to properly protect tangata whenua rights to our taonga. I take the view that Maori should have absolute authority over our taonga and matauranga (knowledge). At the end of the day the ability to control imported rip-off Maori art should suffice. Maori should also have the power to regulate domestic supply as well.

If you take a walk around the Rotorua CBD you’ll come across a multitude of cheap, shitty souvenir stores selling fake pounamu and other rip-off Maori art pieces. The same is true of Wellington. There is one store in particular that really pisses me off with the fake items they sell. If you are in Wellington, or plan on visiting, the best place to purchase Maori art is Iwi Art on Tory Street. However, they will be moving to the corner of Willis Street and Manners Street in a few months time.      

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