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Maori Designs In Our Art - Appropriated or Legitimate?

Kia ora friends,

I've been asked a culturally sensitive question by a Scandinavian man who at one point spent time living in New Zealand. I'd like to put his question to you all.

Although the issue has been discussed in the public arena before, I'm not quite sure what the answer is or where to find it....

For those of us who are of Maori decent and gradually learning about our heritage and culture...

...and for those who are non-Maori and genuinely interested and inspired by Maori art and motifs...

Is it alright to combine elements of Maori designs and create something new out of them?

Artists and designers all over the world are using Maori symbols without knowledge of their meaning but have no way of finding out what is acceptable usage and what isn't.  Therefore I think it's important to readdress this.

When you express yourself creatively, where is the line in visual arts between ignorantly/innocently appropriating cultural symbols and mindfully incorporating them?

How do you know if you're being respectful?  Do you have to know what each symbol means and where it comes from?  Do you have to have Maori blood in order to use Maori designs in your work?  Who has the authority to decide?  Who can you ask about your specific case?

Our Scandinavian friend googled "maori symbols" but didn't find any site with contact details to anyone who he could ask - he just got links to jewellery stores and tattoo studios.

Have you got any suggestions or opinions on the subject? Please Leave a Reply below or email me sofia@sofiaminson.com...

Written by artist Sofia Minson from NewZealandArtwork.com
New Zealand Maori portrait and landscape oil paintings


 

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