Poi exponent questions company's use of poi

By Raniera Harrison

Christchurch-based sports and recreation company, Home of Poi, came under fire today after allegations of culturally misappropriating the traditional Māori art form. The owner of the company says their trademarks and copyrights mean they are well within the law.

However, one national poi exponent says that still isn't good enough. The beat of judgment resounding from one of the country's top poi exponents.

Poi expert Ngamoni Huata says, “What they are doing with the poi is merely entertainment. It is not traditional.”

The Home of Poi in Christchurch is at the centre of the controversy. However, they say they have the correct trademarks and copyrights necessary to operate as a business in New Zealand.

Home of Poi Director Malcolm Crawshay says, “Because we are using the word 'Poi' and it belongs to the Māori making sure that it wasn’t offensive.”

The company in question has been facilitating poi workshops for nearly 20 years. They say they are not driven by financial gain.

“Didn't make any money in the first three years, but we are making money now - certainly.”

It's been 11 years now since the broadcast of the infamous Fiat commercial in Italy, which used elements of the haka, Ka Mate. Huata, a nationally-acclaimed Te Matatini poi judge, says she hopes the poi does not face the same fate.

Huata says, “I saw some of them doing the poi. It was soft and all over the place.”

It is a controversial topic that continues to fire the debate over whether the poi belongs to NZ as a whole or exclusively to Māori.

“We have domain over the poi as Māori.”

This poi judge says this debate will continue on regardless.