Fury over overseas online retailer putting Māori whakairo on bedspread

An online retailer has sparked outrage by co-opting the image of a Māori whakairo from outside Te Puia Arts and Culture centre in Rotorua for a bed linen set.

The bedspread is being sold on Tmarc Tee, a website that claims to be based in Newark, Delaware in the United States, but markets itself as a “worldwide online shopping store.” The site’s home page features dozens of spelling and grammatical errors.

The linen set is being marketed by a number of affiliates on social media, including Frases Clothing.

The cultural appropriation has caught the ire of exasperated online commenters, now flooding the posts with criticism.

“These are stolen designs, not the seller’s original creations,” one said.

“I wouldn’t let a maggot or a slug sleep on this.”

“Just wrong,” another said.

The social media users are also encouraging others offended by the US$79.99 ($114) bed sheets, to report the post to Facebook.

“Make a difference and ensure this post doesn’t show on your feed by reporting it,” one commented.

Te Hamua Nikora, a cultural guardian and founder of Facebook page “Our culture is not your paycheck” says the issue with the cultural appropriation is multi-faceted and a growing problem online.

“Firstly, there’s the straight theft of someone else’s art – lifted from the internet and sold without any sort of payment whatsoever.

“Secondly, there’s the appropriation of cultural icons that the thief has no idea at all about, using only the image, no story, no whakapapa,” he said.

Nikora says perhaps the biggest concern for him is the “desecration of tapu and mana of the representation of upoko tipuna” being placed on items such as blankets.

Nikora says it is not the first time cultural appropriation has occurred, with overseas retailers attempting to capitalise on Māori taonga but the digital world makes things tougher to tackle.

“Shower curtains and even table cloths. How do we remedy the repercussions in Te Ao Wairua? To whom do we haka?” he said.

Te Ao Māori news asked the retailer for comment. It has yet to respond.

– Māori TV

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