Apr 14, 2021


Maori News & Indigenous Views

Semi-nude photo of Nicole Scherzinger with “Maori tattoo” draws Facebook ire

2 min read

A photo in a recently launched coffee table book of Nicole Scherzinger (former Pussy Cat dolls singer) has drawn interesting comment on Facebook.

The photos, shot by renowned fashion photographer Raphael Mazzucco and edited by Jimmy Iovine and Sean Coombs, seeks to”subtly push societys standards of beauty showing off a more genuine, bold, and realistic form and figure. Mazzucco was commissioned on a global tour, capturing the natural beauty of women from all walks of life, resulting in a portfolio of 248 stunning images that captures a raw, natural sense of emerging beauty.

What was particularly interesting was that the response online was mixed (normally we see total outrage at the misappropriation of Maori culture), but this time what we saw was more diverging views – to be fair, Nicole is of mixed ancestry, with Japanese, German and Hawaiian whakapapa (bloodlines) – and as is clear, she is incredibly beautiful (which makes us wonder does that make it acceptable for some more easily then others)!

The image which was shared by Toiariki Contemporary Ta Moko Facebook page helped illicit the korero (discussion) which followed.

Dawn Cambell, played devils’ advocate saying “If u look at it from another point of view..perhaps the artist was trying to portray the woman’s rights thing by putting a male taonga on her but hot to be disrespectful but to show how times have changed since way back… traditional has changed over the years…”

While Julia Orloff, another asute writer said, “My comment? I see it as disrespectful & an exploitation of her culture. I can’t imagine her being able to find an elder to would say, “Yes, placing a henna tattoo on your a** is an excellent way to portray our culture… and bring pride and respect!”

One of the most revealing comments came from Tarns Waikato, who wrote a dissertation on the subject saying “The array of different comments highlights a lot about ourselves, the state of our own cultural knowledge (or lack of it), the modern reality of globalisation and what we think is and is not acceptable when it comes to our taonga.

Tarns when on to say “For myself I believe there is a place for kirituhi and for ta moko, what I have a problem with is the use of our traditional imagery, motifs and patterns as a cheap and corny fashion accessory, devoid of any relationship to the ideals, beliefs and kaupapa that give mana and ihi to the designs in the first place.

I think Nicole is stunning, its just a pity the stylist went for the 99 cent version of highlighting her exotic beauty instead of the priceless way of doing it authentically – coulda been a Hawaiian goddess, instead she looks like a manu doll gone wrong. Too much like hard work I guess but not unexpected…

What are your thoughts whanau? Korero mai:

33 thoughts on “Semi-nude photo of Nicole Scherzinger with “Maori tattoo” draws Facebook ire

  1. Why can’t this be seen for what it is.

    Although some facebook comments about this article were somewhat supportive, I looked at other’s and cringed. Some alluded to the need to have to earn ones right to wear such a treasure, where as others commented on the positioning of the Pohuru on a woman. Ha, one even spoke of how high born Maori women would have rather killed themselves than to pose naked – how that applies to today I have no idea ?? We’re such a split nation, but then again, I guess it’s no different to how so many other indigenous cultures have been split throughout time.

    I personally see this as a very tasteful and well thought through combination of beauty on beauty. Yes it was placed on her buttocks but evenso, it’s not revealing or crude as some have suggested. Further, if it were of one of our own (models) can you imagine the additional disgust comments directed at her and her whanau/iwi. Why we do that to ourselves I’ll never know ??

    We should stop trying to protect a treasue that today is plastered on the net, on tv and in newspapers, and we should stop trying to impose traditional protocols which not even we stay tuturu to any longer. Ie, (some) women with moko – fowl mouthed drunks smoking cigarettes ?? Or (some) ta moko Men abusive to themselves, their whanau and the world.

    I applaud Raphael Mazzucco for selecting the perfect model and producing an excellent demonstration of Maori art within fashion.

  2. I think the design is upside down…?

    Jokes aside, this picture is beautiful – Nicole is beautiful and Raphael believes taa moko is too (which says a lot for him to endorse it). So he puts them together to create this natural native piece, and pulls it off albeit the design could have better.
    However, without detractIng from the facts; yes this does invoke controversy using what appears to be maori taa moko. Does Raphael imply this on purpose? ….maybe (inadvertently attracting even more attention albeit negative/positive); or does he use the design as a scapegoat so the viewer sub conciously accepts the nude pose? …..possibly; could he have used some other ethnic design? ….probably (he’s not the first and won’t be the last); Lastly, as maori should we be proud the world loves our art? as in this case merged on the same level as a beautiful famous celebrity?…. Definitely!

    I’m not saying i condone foreigners making reference to toi maori or getting taa like a fashion statement, because they seldom do it authentically. But what i am saying is that they can’t get enough of us!

    Me and my fiance’ place taa moko on our body where we want to, all pertain traditional values and hold our own interpretations. In this respect i believe Toi maori, maoritanga and maori tangata are adapting and evolving to the times as it has always done. That is one of the main reasons we remain strong today and some other cultures are not so lucky. As the old adage goes.. ‘If you can’t beat’em.. Join’em

    Critics could banter over this picture or each other forever as i’ve demonstrated, but plain and simple its just a picture and the viewer has the freedom to attach their own perception, good or bad.I believe this is what great photography is… So a job well done i say!

  3. WHY DID IT HAVE TO BE A MAORI DESIGN????…. She could’ve gotten a design from ONE of her MANY cultural backgrounds that she falls under as well as the positioning of it. Only women/men who have a high status within the Maori community are able to get that type of tattoo, otherwise known as a Pohuru, as it shows the significant role that she/he has. That’s also with the Ta Moko of the face. The more detailed it is, the more of a significant role that person plays. Ta Moko has history behind it where you hold, not only yourself but also those that have passed on as well as those that will be coming after you. Europeans are always looking at different ways of making money and no matter what cultures, ethnicity or values, behind something so significant, the reply is always, “this is the 21st century….” and it doesn’t help that its own people (meaning who ever design the Ta Moko)are ok with giving up its heritage, mana and everything that the Ta Moko means away for a money…..Is this the Treaty all over again??? But in a different context.

  4. @Himiona…says he who fails to end his sentence with a fullstop.
    @Kyles..as for you never meeting anyone who has bled under a chisel before..or knowing the true significance and meaning behind it…seriously? You dont get out much do you? That may be your view from downtown Auckland, but in the communities where it stands for something you will find a differing opinion.

  5. One would think you would highlight your OWN culture first before someone elses you know nothing little or nothing about. And if they had done their research, they would have known that this would deeply sadden and offend people who hold dearly to the old ways. I think she is beautiful.. but, my concern lies with the intent and purpose behind this picture. Is it to celebrate our rich and unique culture? Or another “cheap plastic tiki” hanging round the necks of those that seek to make money from parading it like some cheap knock off brand of perfume. Ta Moko is deep and everlasting…something that is sacred..if she was serious about highlighting a culture then why doesnt she take a razor blade and make cuts to her skin like the Dagomba tribe in Africa? Surely if you are going for the “impact” angle then that would be a more fitting way to get your point across right?

    I rue the day when some foreigner forever associates Ta Moko with the latest cool thing to do because Nicole S drew one on her ass!

  6. And she is FILIPINO, you omitted that fact. Her father I believe is pure Filipino (which means he is of Malay, Chinese and Spanish ancestry).

  7. I post this seperately because it is on a sacred issue. Traditional Maori women would not pose naked. Although it was a european assumption that “native” women were of easy virtue what happened had to be taken in context. In Tahiti Captain Cook was assumed to be a god, he and his men were treated as gods, in ways that complied with indigenous beliefs that were in no way related to european lax morals. In fact, when Captain Cook and his men reached New Zealand they were suprised at the way Maori women were furious at the mens attempt to approach them while diving for seafood, and it was recorded the women took every opportunity to cover themselves and to distance themselves from the rude attentions of the men. Women who were high born committed suicide rather than bear the shame of exposure. What this photo does, as previous “tourist” shots in earlier times did, is to portray a false image to young Maori women who might follow the example without knowing they should respect themselves as the sacred vessel of creation.

    1. Oh, yes, I believe you! A pity — Jim Iorvine et al. wanted nude shoots and tried to make it all seem artsy.

  8. Ta Moko is distinctive. It shows where you come from. A different Ta Moko on a Hawaiian awoke my interest, it was from the Marquesas. These messages are potent personal links to Whakapapa or gifts from those who own the rights. European mismatch breaks sacred meaning.

  9. Great to see our traditional Ta Moko used in other countries as art no matter what the circumstances,we eat cows that are sacred in India,we eat pigs which sacred in other countries,time to get past our Wairua Tapu and share our fantastic Culture with the rest of the World,be proud to be Maori and see others using our Taonga!!!!! George

  10. I love it, I think she is beautiful, and so is this picture. Culture should be explored, celebrated and most importantly shared. In this world we live in now, it would be a shame to not be able to experience other cultures and traditions, as they evolve and grow and also as they were began. This is what this picture does, it gives the opportunity to see and understand and learn about something that might be new to you. I understand cultural pride and respect, but to limit those who can appreciate it and share it, would be a shame.

  11. Was this art done by a Maori? Were the proper rights carried out during its application? Is there a Maori story behind this design? If not, what are we even calling it Maori??? Let’s just put this in the context of “look at her, she got a drawing on her nono” – because that certainly isn’t my culture she’s had drawn on her bum.

  12. In my opinion the overriding theme of the picture is “soft porn” with or without ta moko. I think Raphael got it wrong! What’s natural about a heavily made up, contrived pose? Contrary to his intent of “raw, natural sense of emerging beauty” ……… all she’s missing is a “f*#k me platform heel” to nibble on.

  13. Our designs, and aspects of our culture are beautiful, why not share? why not enlighten the globe with our beauty? Why not let our beauty attract influential people, sometimes influential people are useful even helpful.

    Believing that things/ culture/ language/ design etc are so sacred that only a few can experience it or believing that only those who are choosen or blessed enough to experience aspects of a culture etc is cultural snobbery.

  14. It seems there is a lot of reference to traditionalism in regards to Ta Moko. Im sorry to say it, but not once have I met anyone with Ta Moko on their body that is able to describe to everyone what it truly represents who their tipuna are, their whenua etc. It has been in recent years simply a cosmetic feature to ones self. I mean, if we all want to get political about being traditional with Ta Moko, how many people do you know have had Ta Moko done with a chisel??? And because Nicole Schrezinger is famous, she has all of a sudden become a target of what a lot of Maori people are doing anyway?! They may not get it on their bum, but honestly to carry something on your arm that is sacred and that you know nothing about, is just as bad! Does anyone truly know that what she is carrying on her body wasnt approved by her elders? Or that maybe is does actually represent her Hawaiian heritage? Was the question asked whether or not Robbie Williams asked his elders for his Ta Moko? Honestly! I think she is beautiful and even more beautiful with this on her body.

  15. Why couldn’t she have a Hawaiian tatt and I thought Men were only allowed full body Ta Moko, also what does it mean…?

  16. Well for a starters she should of got a Hawaiian Tamoko not saying this could be straight Maori but it looks it, and when u get a tamoko it represents a certain significance!!!!! this is pure mockery and just a piece of art on her body…
    Im sure women never got Tamoko in that area!!!!!
    it reminds me of a story My artist Mark Kopua told me about his Tamoko being marked on someones body with out his knowledge but thats the internet for ya…

    Protecting our assets is important because everything else is being taken away from us!!!

  17. Aue! Is right! And a Mockery is rite cz ths is not on I know for a FACT my kuia & Koro ‘s wud shake thea head. (shez so gawjis bt Nah this just nt on) And whoever did ths Ta moko shud thnk twice bot wat thev dun

  18. Do not know what the big fuss is about If our wahine looked like he I do not think we would complain also who give a #$#@! the chineese are buling our bloody land! I don’t see the maori Party doing JACK#@$%%!

  19. Yep, she’s gorgeous! Sorry gurl but Ta Moko is based on one’s history and tradition. What you got was a mock tattoo.

  20. She has an amazing behind and that moko is just as amazing. The two go together. The curvilinear styles go hand in hand with her curves to. God Bless all women.

  21. to think tht this teke could pull off this tatoo, jz shows she belongs as a stripper, wot a clown, maori woman need permission from the elders, it is culturally insensitive to my tupunas, wod americans agree if we messed with their constitutional rights and say u cannot bear arms, well it is th same thing, maoris are jz as passionate about this!! only not all maoris hav acess to th net, or u wod be readin some vry bad language, Nicole u clown get tht design off ur butt, stupid!!

    1. learn some proper vocab your spelling is atrocious your vocab alone makes us look like a bunch of dummies do you type like this because your lazy??? I am more offended by your use of the English language then that kirituhi on her ass.

  22. well it took me till I was 33 to have my ta moko put on my body. A lot of history I carry and it means the world to me. Isn’t that the meaning of having ta moko? I watched a documentary of a young Maori wahine who researched her moko and it took her a long time to get it. She sought permission from her elders and she had it done the traditional way. Yes Nicole is beautiful, however we have beautiful Maori wahine too, why could they not have used one of our people. Would of meant more with mana and pride and a kaumatua having blessed it. Just my thoughts.

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