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Bob Edlin

Te Reo Risks

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Firms wanting to use te reo in their branding should check with Te Hamua Nikora as well as IPONZ.

Learning Māori is first and foremost about having fun, according to Precious Clark, director of Maurea Consulting LTD, in a Newshub report on learning te reo Maori and embracing tikanga.

“It’s about giving people the tools so they can pronounce our words correctly and it’s about giving them the confidence to give it a go,” she said.

But getting it right isn’t always easy,  Newshub’s Mike McRoberts pointed out.

His report recalled the recent experience of a Canadian brewery which apologised after making a beer with New Zealand hops which it called the Pale Ale Huruhuru.

“The strict translation means feather, but it’s more commonly used to describe pubic hair. 

“After being called out by language watchdog Te Hamua Nikora, the brewery apologised.”

The beer company wasn’t alone.  A leather shop in Wellington apologised, too, after coming under fire for unwittingly taking its name from the Māori word “huruhuru”.

The owners of the leather shop removed their store’s Facebook page after being sent abusive messages, insults, and racist slurs but said they couldn’t afford to rename the store.

Again, the ever-vigilant Nikora had sounded the alarm.

According to this Australian report:

The unfortunate mistake was revealed by New Zealand TV host Te Hamua Nikora in a Facebook post recently.

“Some people call it appreciation, I call it appropriation,” Mr Nikora said in the five-minute clip.

“It’s that entitlement disease they’ve got. Stop it. Use your own language.

“If you are selling leather, call it leather. Don’t call it pubic hair unless you are selling pubic hair, and don’t call beer pubic hair unless you make it with pubic hair.”

 Nikora said he personally contacted both businesses to inform them of their mistake, and to ask them to use their own language in future.

CNN spoke to Aynur Karakoch, who owns the Huruhuru leather store in Wellington with her husband Ercan.  She said they had chosen the name in a bid to “embrace” the Māori language and culture and had not known its dual meaning.

The store had opened just a few weeks earlier and its name had been registered with New Zealand’s Intellectual Property Office, which cleared it with a Māori committee beforehand, she said.

“We do not have any intention to offend anybody regardless of nationality or religion, and we are sorry if some people got offended,” she said. “We wanted to embrace this language.”

The Intellectual Property Office of New Zealand website gives advice on which Māori words and designs do not require assessment and explained that the Māori Trade Marks Advisory Committee will still need to see your intellectual property application if it includes several things, such as Māori geographical names or other Māori words or images.

The website steers visitors to a Maori dictionary which gives two definitions of huruhuru:

  • (noun) diffused light. 
  •  (noun) hair, feather, coarse hair, bristles (not normally of the head), fur.

According to the same dictionary, it’s “puke huruhuru” that translates into …

  • (noun) pubes (of a woman).

More can be learned about the cultural policing of Nikora from Ngaarda Media, which tells us he brings transgressors to the attention of his followers on ‘OUR CULTURE IS NOT YOUR PAYCHECK‘.

He played a part in drawing attention to the brand name of the Indiginous gin company and the design on one of its labels.

The subsequent campaign of abuse and threats – and the wider publicity the campaign generated – prompted the company to quickly change its name and redesign the label.

The Ngaarda Media report says:

Wellington based Te Hamua Nikora, founder of ‘Our Culture Is Not Your Paycheck’ (OCINYP), jokes there is so much work in monitoring the cultural appropriation of his culture that he is earning ancestor points.

In March this year, owners of a New Zealand craft gin label ‘Indiginous Gin’ were forced to change their product’s name after Mr Nikora did a big fat haka online and sent emails to let the label know they had made a mistake by associating the word Indigenous and a Samoan tattoo design with gin.

Nikora said he was able to persuade the gin-makers away from their belief that because they are Kiwis they are allowed to help themselves to culture.

His monitoring of the commercial landscape for miscreants who might cause cultural offence extends to art galleries.  

Work by Canterbury-based artist Rhonye McIlroy on display at Christchurch’s Windsor Gallery was immediately taken down after local iwi member Atama Moa informed them of McIlroy’s lack of consultation with Iwi.

It included a moko.

Windsor Gallery spokesperson said they were not aware that McIlroy didn’t undergo a proper process to ensure her artwork was safe to put out to the public.

“We understand the harm that it has caused,” the spokesperson said.

The Facebook page ‘OUR CULTURE IS NOT YOUR PAYCHECK‘ reported on McIlroy’s work and , Nikora said: “Pākehā have occupied this country for too long to be misappropriating.” “We walk a fine line between art and sacred taonga,” he says.

 Point of Order visited Nikora’s Facebook page.

Among other things we learned something of his culinary tastes:

Tea tonight consisted of chicken drums cooked in my own secret rib sauce, my fave Asian slaw from Pak n Save and a sour dough spread with butter and garlic and warmed for 15 mins on 180 Celsius

We wonder about the geographical and cultural origins of chickens, sour dough, butter and garlic, and trust – of course – that the Asian slaw was not culturally misappropriated.