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Maori object to Halloween tattoo kit

Published: 7:31PM Thursday August 10, 2006 Source: AAP

Maori leaders are trying to block the sale of facial tattoo kits by an American store which they say are insulting to their culture.

The Los Angeles store Halloween Town, which specialises in horror costumes and accessories, is selling the Maori Face Tattoo Kit for $US10 (approximately $NZ15).

The product page on its website features a photo of a young Maori man with a full facial tattoo.

Rotorua academic Ngahihi o te ra Bidois, who wears a facial tattoo, has emailed the US store asking for the kits to be withdrawn from sale.

"It is insulting ... what they are doing is not portraying Maori correctly," Bidois told Rotorua's The Daily Post newspaper.

He is also considering raising the issue with New Zealand's Human Rights Commission and the body which manages Maori intellectual property rights.

But another Maori academic said not much could be done to stop the kits being sold.

"No one likes to see their culture being denigrated but we are aware that the moko is in the public domain," Aroha Mead of Victoria University told NZPA.

"This comes down to being respectful of other cultures so you don't cut and paste, pick and choose."

Indigenous MP Te Ururoa Flavell told the newspaper: "We are not about to have pumpkins or people decorated with our traditional symbols, all for the purposes of a trick or a treat".

"A moko comes with a story and a past, and you have to know that."

Traditionally, high-ranking Maori men had facial moko and the more intricate the tattoo the higher his status.

Maori complaints about denigration of their culture overseas have succeeded before.

A US tobacco company this year withdrew the sale of Maori Mix brand cigarettes in Israel after receiving complaints from New Zealand.

Maori were less successful in objecting last month to an Italian car advertisement which featured European women performing a haka chant.