Manurewa kaumātua victim of appropriation by German artist

By Tumamao Harawira

Tūnuiārangi Mclean is the latest victim of image theft, and his case highlights the lack of protection under the law for wearers of mataora and moko kauae.

An image of Mclean, taken by photographer Michael Bradley, was then stolen by a German artist, who reproduced a copy of the photo to sell on the art website Etsy.

"My mataora has my whakapapa. My Tūhoe side, my Ngāti Porou side, and my Waikato/Maniapoto."

Matua Rangi says it is an issue of tika and pono.

"All those issues are sacred to us. If they had gotten in touch with me, I could have explained to them, and warned them against using my image."

But under international law, wearers of tāmoko have few protections.

Imagery theft of Māori culture continues.

Photo rights

Lawyer Sarah Chapman, who has been working on behalf of Mclean, says the photo  has more rights than the person whose image is being used. Etsy, for its part, has taken down the painting.

"Any use of an image, you could argue, appeared to be endorsed, authorised, or otherwise approved by Rangi Mclean himself, when that's not the case. So we can use the Fair Trading Act in that way. But otherwise, there is no image rights protection in New Zealand."

"Tāmoko and Māori rights are particular to New Zealand and Aotearoa, so they may not be understood overseas or in other jurisdictions, and it doesn't have extra-territorial effect if the rights did apply."

Photographer horrified

German artist Gerd Strizel painted the image of Rangi Mclean from a photo, which he then tried to sell on the art website Etsy.

Mclean says he was horrified when he found out about the art piece.

"My wairua has been trampled when it was made known to me that this has been done to me by someone in Germany."

The photo of Mclean was part of an art exhibition, Puaki, by photographer Michael Bradley, an exhibition that highlights mataora and moko kauae.

"Using an old style of photography, and what I thought would happen, it would appear that their tāmoko would disappear," Bradley said. "But then I obviously needed to balance that with a modern-day digital photograph, to see how they truly looked at the moment."

Bradley says he went to great lengths to ensure he had buy-in from the wearers of tāmoko.

"It's pretty upsetting because I have worked so long to gain the trust, to talk to people about the work, to say this is what I am wanting to do, and they gave me that trust."

Te Ao Mārama has asked Gerd Strizel for comment. No response has been received.