A French magazine is courting cultural outrage with a front cover photo of a rugby player wearing a fake moko.
Fullback Alexis Palisson is topless on the front cover of Tetu - a bimonthly magazine catering for France's gay and lesbian community.
The 23-year-old has been photographed with not only a fake moko on his chin but also Maori tattoos across his torso. He is even seen wielding a traditional taiaha.
In the magazine article, Palisson said: "For me, Maori tattoos are like the haka - a tradition that I respect, that also helps to make rugby more popular."
But critics in New Zealand are outraged at the photographs - calling them 'cultural theft'.
"Our culture gets bastardised, that's what happens - it's not right, it's not fair, and we're getting portrayed in the wrong manner," said broadcaster Willie Jackson.
Moko tell the story of family and tribal affiliations, and are often sacred.
Jackson suggests that those who rip it off should at least ask Maori first.
"Frankly we just get sick of the arrogance shown by people overseas. Why don't they go through the correct process," he said.
Palisson has since apologised, saying that while he regrets causing any offence he sees tattoos as a tradition he respects.
Tattoo artist Andre Munro said foreigners with mokos do not even realise it is insulting.
"The stopping of it - that you can't do, and a lot of those people that are doing it - they really don't understand what it they are doing," he told ONE News.
Boxer Mike Tyson caused a stir with his Maori inspired tattoo, and popstar Robbie Williams is another celebrity keen on the design.
Currently, there is no legislation in New Zealand to prevent overseas "exploitation" of Maori designs and images, Auckland intellectual property consultant Murray Stott told the Herald on Sunday.
In a recent Waitangi Tribunal report, it recommends law changes protecting intellectual property, and Maori culture and heritage.
However, it remains unclear how this would operate overseas.
A spokesman for the French national rugby team told the newspaper that Palisson was not under the union's responsibility when the pictures were taken.
With Newstalk ZB
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