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.
Government-funded art body Toi Maori Aotearoa will hold an official Maori Art Market during the World Cup, where each item will have a certificate of authenticity carrying information on the artist and the origin of the object.
Maori Art Market creative director Darcy Nicholas said that, though it was difficult to stop fakes coming in, it was possible to educate tourists to beware. "Art has no language barrier and we can tell visitors about our history and immerse them in our culture through the work that we display. It is contemporary art so it reflects the heritage and creative energy of our people as they see it today."
Iwi Art Gallery owner Tia Kirk 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".
Wellington patent lawyer Lynell Tuffery Huria said this could potentially stop the sale of some mass-produced souvenirs, at least in New Zealand. "But it wouldn't be able to stop them from producing them in China."
Meanwhile, the Commerce Commission is working with Customs to crack down on imports, ensuring their country of manufacture is clearly labelled. They will also trawl gift and souvenir stores, to ascertain retailers and distributors are abiding by the Fair Trading Act.
The Maori Art Market is at Porirua's Te Rauparaha Arena and Pataka Museum from October 6 till October 9.