"Blatantly arrogant" company appropriates Māori artists designs

updated By Mare Haimona-Riki

Māori artists are seeking resolution after seeing their work appropriated by an offshore commercial company, '1st New Zealand'

The issue of cultural appropriation today is more complex than ever, due to the nature of access to images across different online platforms. 

Tāmoko artist Turumakina Duley has had his own work appropriated by the website and used on a hoodie which is being sold for $149.62 NZD.

“We all know that posting our art on FB ‘legally’ allows FB the right to use our data and images. Does that make it ethically right? No, not at all, and it’s a risk we as artists face when trying to promote our work over social media", says Turumakina Duley. 

With a strong theme of Māori and Pacific Island cultural elements being used for clothing and homeware, the website also has images and designs from the NZ Police, NZ First, Chiefs Rugby, NZ Māori Rugby League, clothing brand Tribal Roots and other recognisable images from Aotearoa New Zealand. 

"This particular company seems to prey on online artists, steal their artwork, no doubt with the underlying thought that legally they have a right to do so, and on-sell the art without any conscience whatsoever. It’s just blatantly arrogant", says Turumakina Duley. 

Since making inquiries, Te Ao has been made aware of a number of Māori artists who have had their work appropriated by the same company.

Artists Anikaaro Harawira-Haili and Victor Tepaa have also been affected, with a collaboration piece that they created being appropriated by the website and used on a blanket set. 

Comparison of appropriated artwork - Image / Facebook

In relation to a hoodie with NZ Police insignia and colours listed on the website, a statement from NZ Police to Te Ao said:

"From time to time NZ Police have been made aware of instances where the Police logo or parts of our branding have been used without permission on retail merchandise. These products are not endorsed by New Zealand Police and in this instance, we have followed it up with the business."

Overnight, Te Korimako o Taranaki has raised concerns about products on the website with Parihaka designs.

Appropriated Parihaka images shown on 1st New Zealand website - Post / Facebook

Other logos used belong to NZ First, the Chiefs and even the Ngā Tapuwae First World War Trails silver fern logo created for the Government's WW100 Anzac campaign in 2018.

While the company's contact details have an address located in Adelaide, South Australia, it seems they could actually be operating out of Vietnam.

Te Ao Māori News has requested a response from the company '1st New Zealand', who are yet to respond.