May 12, 2021

Maori News & Indigenous Views

Toi Iho to be scrapped

2 min read


A trademark used by some of Maoridom’s elite artists will be scrapped, a move criticised by some of those who set it up. However, Creative New Zealand which owns the “toi iho” brand say it never delivered on its promise of increasing sales of Maori art and a difficult decision to scrap it had to be made.

From today CNZ will start telling 243 artists and retailers they have three months to wind down their use of toi iho before it becomes defunct. Te Waka Toi, CNZ’s Maori arts board, created the mark in 2002 using just over $1 million of public funding.

Ata Te Kanawa represented Nga Puna Waihanga, an arts organisation considered one of Maoridom’s most important, during the consultation phase. The basic premise of the quality standard was to assure buyers of authenticity – that flax kites weren’t made in Singapore, Ms Te Kanawa said. She was critical of Creative New Zealand’s marketing efforts since the brand’s inception saying momentum never built around it. feels that in fact Toi Iho should not have been owned by Creative New Zealand in the first place and that Maori should have had the right to tono for administration and ownership of the brand, it makes no sense to have a “Maori Only” brand owned by the government, this totally defeats the intended purpose and it is no surprise that it failed.

“It was their responsibility to push. There was interest from Maori architects, film-makers, fashion designers – they should have had a chance to join and use it.” The brand shouldn’t be left to die – if CNZ didn’t want it the onus was on them to find a new home for it. If that didn’t happen the set-up costs would prove to be a waste of taxpayer money, Ms Te Kanawa said.

CNZ’s chief executive Stephen Wainwright said it was “possibly” a fair criticism that not everything had been done to push the brand which cost $320,000 a year to administer. However, there were difficulties around the business model because the trademark created a relationship between artist and retailer, but CNZ’s role in terms of where it fitted between the two was less clear, he said. Many artists were making successful careers without need of the trademark and at a recent Maori art market in Porirua only 15 of 200 artists were toi iho licensed, Mr Wainwright said.

“We’re in the business of making tough decisions when the community comes to us for funding and I think we should be equally tough on ourselves.”

* Brand on the run

Prominent Maori artists who have used the brand include:

  • Raymond Adsett, visual arts exponent.
  • Moana Maniapoto, singer/songwriter.
  • Rangi Kipa, tamoko/visual/craft & object art/carving.
  • Patricia Grace, literature.
  • Dr Pakariki Harrison, carving exponent.
  • Sonia Snowden, weaver.
  • Drs Ngapo and Pimia Wehi, Maori performing arts exponents.
Kia ora to APN Holdings NZ Limited for this article.

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