Pacific rugby team ‘sorry’ for taking Tangaroa image

Monday August 24, 2020 Written by Published in Local
Mike Tavioni carved these two statues of Tangaroa; he says the Rarotonga Tangaroa is strong, aggressive, even boastful – certainly intimidating for an opposition rugby team.   JONATHAN MILNE 20082321/20082320 Mike Tavioni carved these two statues of Tangaroa; he says the Rarotonga Tangaroa is strong, aggressive, even boastful – certainly intimidating for an opposition rugby team. JONATHAN MILNE 20082321/20082320

A Hawai‘i Pacific professional rugby franchise has stirred up a storm by using Rarotonga’s unique depiction of Tangaroa for its commercial branding. 

The new Kanaloa Hawai‘i Rugby team management says it didn’t believe it needed to ask permission to use Rarotonga’s distinctive Tangaroa in its branding.

Chief executive Tracy Atiga first said Cook Islanders could not claim ownership of an atua who was an ancestor of all Polynesians. But, after an outcry, Atiga has issued an apology through Cook Islands News. She acknowledging the depiction was unique and meaningful to the people of Rarotonga.

It came as Cook Islanders threatened the rugby franchise with a legal challenge, through the World Intellectual Property Organisation. The team branding was decried as “disrespectful and culturally insensitive”.

At his studio yesterday, Rarotonga’s master carver Mike Tavioni, who has published a book on the island’s traditional imagery, said the issue highlighted the need for a local organisation charged with protecting Cook Islands Maori knowledge.

The Rarotonga Tangaroa was distinct from the Kanaloa of Hawai‘i, the Ta‘aroa of Tahiti or the Tangaroa of Aotearoa.  “My message to them is, I’m proud you’ve chosen a Rarotonga image because we all share the same demi-god, Tangaroa.  I wish you could have asked first. But our bloodlines should then give you permission to use it – when you ask, of course!”

Tracy Atiga is Aotearoa Maori and Samoan, but spent three months working in Rarotonga.

She now admits it was a mistake for her to use Rarotonga’s Tangaroa without seeking permission. They would start afresh, she said, talking to Tavioni and other authorities, before creating a new Tangaroa image.

2 comments

  • Comment Link Te Hāmua Nikora Tuesday, 25 August 2020 07:52 posted by Te Hāmua Nikora

    Kāre e kore he tohu anō tā Hawaii mō Kanaloa. He aha e kore ai rātou e whakamahi i tērā?

    It makes no sense not to use their own tohu

    Kia kaha tātou, ngā uri o Te Moananui-a-Kiwa. Our Polynesian culture is beautiful, YES, but expressing it in our own unique and diverse ways means we don’t have to rip each other off

    E mihi ana ki a Rarotonga

    TĒNĀ TĀTOU!

  • Comment Link Tara Ankrah Monday, 24 August 2020 11:07 posted by Tara Ankrah

    Thank you Papa Mike Tavioni, this is why I believe that there should be by law's in place for such issues. It is becoming frequent that other Island nations are using our Kuki Airani kapa, ura, rakei, and now Tangaroa for their use without asking. It makes me angry when other Island nations portray our dancing and culture as theirs when it is obvious they do not portray the essence of our dancing and culture uniquely like a tangata/Vaine Kuki Airani Maori do. We have one of the most beautiful, graceful, unique culture in the world. One of its kind to be honest. Lets put a stop to other nation Islands taking advantage of it. AKAMUTU.

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