Sunday, July 25, 2021

Tony Sayers: Be Careful Where You Stick Your Moko

I have just read about the Maori outrage over the usage of a cartoon figure decorated with a moko (tattoo) for advertising a Covid-19 vaccination programme, that was commissioned by a Te Tiriti Joint Governance Group, comprised of the Bay of Plenty District Health Board and Te Rūnanga Hauora Māori o te Moana a Toi. {1], [5].
The depiction of a virus decorated with tā moko has offended a considerable number of Maori.
Labour List MP, Tamati Coffey has dubbed this illustration as being racist [2].

In New Zealand, (Oops, Aotearoa), the bulk of accusations made in the news media about incidents of racism appear to be of Maori accusing Pakehas of racism. To date, where there have been incidents of racism by Maori towards pakeha, they just do not receive any publicity, consequently the public become conditioned to the idea that only Pakeha can be racist.

With this particular news report, anyone reading about the offence caused to Maori from a depiction of a Covid virus decorated with a tattoo getting the boot, will assume that it is those pesky pakehas again.
Already, I am overcome with ‘white guilt’.
I feel the need to go and flagellate myself with a piece of barbed wire.

But hang on!
Before I search for the band-aids, perhaps I should take a look at this through my euro-centric lens.
As I delve beneath the slanted spin of the news article in STUFF NZ NEWS [1], [2], plus associated articles on the same topic: I find that the artist was Maori, that there was input from Maori marketing specialists, and it had gone through an approval process involving consultation with some local iwi [2].

So, this looks like a Maori artist has used a Maori design, approved by Maori marketing specialists, approved in consultation with iwi, to create advertising that Labour List MP, Tamati Coffey has dubbed as ‘Racist’.
Wow! Now even Maori are being racist towards Maori. Things are getting bad.
Is there anyone out there who is not being racist towards Maori? Please stand up!

I read on:
DHB board chair Sharon Shea first saw it on Thursday night, was offended and found it wrong, she said in a statement.
“Since last night, I have been informed it was designed by a Māori artist, and had input from Māori marketing specialists and it had gone through an approval process, including consultation with some local iwi,” she said.

In a statement from the joint chairs of the Bay of Plenty District Health Board and Te Rūnanga Hauora Māori o te Moana a Toi, Sharon Shea and Linda Steel, the CEO, Pete Chandler, and the Manukura – executive director Toi Ora, Marama Tauranga, an apology was offered to “local Māori, iwi and hapū partners, and whānau, for the use of an inappropriate design on Covid-19 marketing collateral”. [1]
This group is a Te Tiriti governance partner, which takes in 17 iwi. [5]

So, “an apology was offered to “local Māori, iwi and hapū partners, and whānau, for the use of an inappropriate design on Covid-19 marketing collateral”.
To offer an apology implies a degree of culpability on the part of those organisations mentioned.
I commend those CEOs for being honest, candid and owning it.
They are not the target of my article. However, their designations and salaries, call upon them to take some heat. Please accept there is nothing personal in my criticism, which is of their office and not the personality.

Through researching Sharon Shea, Linda Steel and Marama Tauranga, I find that they are Maori.
Sharon Shea has affiliations with: Ngati Ranginui, Ngati Hako, Ngati Haua and Ngati Hine. [3]
Marama Tauranga is affiliated to: Ngāti Maniapoto, Tainui, Taranaki. [4]
Although I could not locate whanau information for Linda Steel, I would hazard a guess at Whakatohia, Tuhoe and Whanau-a-Apanui affiliations.

Due to their dominant positions within those organisations, plus considering the current trends towards ‘decolonisation’ within New Zealand official organisations, and the government directive to give preference to awarding government contracts to Maori service providers, it would be reasonable to assume that the inception of this publication took place in an environment where the Maori presence prevailed.
The Maori artist probably felt obliged to add the Maori dimension to the illustration through embellishing the figures with Maori motifs. One could reasonably say that this was largely a product of Maori taking the lead with good intent, but with a Maori perspective.
Little were they to foresee the potential kick-back from those who seek out causes for offence.

BOP health board boss Peter Chandler replied to Coffey’s post, saying he was “absolutely appalled by the imagery” and that it was “totally unacceptable”.
Had this come to my desk, I can assure you it would not have been approved,” he said.
The DHB is investigating whether one of its staffers approved the brochure before release
. [2]
Peter Chandler’s photograph indicates that he is non-Maori, but who knows for sure these days.

In summary:
  • The organisations complicit in commissioning this publication are fronted by three Maori on the top tier of each organisation and one Pakeha (on the second tier of DHB management);
  • The illustration was drawn by a Maori artist with input from Maori marketing specialists;
  • Approved by those organisations in consultation with iwi;
  • The CEO and the Chair-person of the DHB only found out post eventum;
  • There is going to be an investigation.
Why is there going to be an investigation?
Is this to find a ‘staffer’ who will serve as a suitable scapegoat and is preferably not Maori?

Maori finger-prints are all over this.
We now have Maori apologising to Maori, which is appropriate under these circumstances, but I question whether the label of ‘racism’ still applies.
This appears to NOT be a case of pakeha racism towards Maori.
Over time, news media has conditioned Kiwis to the idea that only pakeha are racist, and Maori are not racists because they are victims of racism. Something does not add up. Perhaps it is my euro-centric perspective at fault.

I also read that:
University of Waikato Māori and Indigenous Studies Professor Tom Roa was equally shocked at the images.
He also said “he believed it would have been ‘a given’ that any Māori staff who viewed the images before the booklet’s release would have flagged the concerns”. [1]
“I would suggest that this is an abuse, someone to kick something with a moko … shades of the haka incident.”

So, according to Professor Roa, “it would have been a given” that Maori staff would have flagged concerns. He also alludes to: “shades of the haka incident”. ( Auckland University Engineering student haka 1979). So, following Tom’s logic, it cannot be a Maori at fault, it has to be those pesky pakehas.
A Maori-run Health System would not mess-up like this would it?
No of course not, Tom.

Dr Rawiri Taonui, researcher and New Zealand’s first professor of indigenous studies was reported as saying: “that in the wake of efforts from Government departments to be more inclusive, the move was “a giant step backwards”. [1]
Dr. Taonui, I would have to agree. Government departments have bent over backwards to accommodate and appease Maori, and as we can currently see, the formation of a tax-payer funded and independent Maori Health Authority is the crowning glory of that appeasement. I wonder whether more independent Maori decision making in the future will take us “back to the dark ages”, to borrow a phrase from Professor Tom.
The good side is that pakeha will not be in the frame for any botch-ups.

Judging by the previous rants of MP Rawiri Waititi, he might deem this article to be ‘Maori Bashing’. Whether the illustration in question, was the outcome of either Maori, or Pakeha dominated organisations, it would still be open to criticism. Legitimate criticism is not bashing anyone, it is just criticism.
This article simply places responsibility where it lies.
You cannot shut down criticism by trying to outlaw it, you just end up ‘throwing fat in the fire’.

If there is a moral to this story, it has to be: “Be careful where you stick your moko”.


Tony Sayers is a retired school-teacher, trained at Ardmore Teachers’ College, and has held the position of school Principal in Australia and New Zealand. His teaching experience spans new entrants level to 6th Form, in primary and secondary subjects including: Graphics, Design-Technology, Mathematics, Science, English and Physical Education. In addition to teaching, he has worked in a variety of other areas including Law Enforcement, Engineering, Maritime and Union sectors.


Anonymous said...

Healthcare cartoon by Maori, for Maori then.

Kiwi Kid said...

Sooner or later, the revolution always devours its children. The question here is are we now ‘sooner’ or ‘later’?