Tiki-shaped opener a cultural fizzer

19:40, Sep 25 2011
Local teacher Zane McGregor says the tiki-shaped Rugby World Cup bottle openers are inappropriate.
NOT ON: Local teacher Zane McGregor says the tiki-shaped Rugby World Cup bottle openers are inappropriate.

A tiki-shaped bottle opener that doubles as a cheap Rugby World Cup souvenir tramples on cultural sensitivities, says a Maori academic.

The officially sanctioned merchandise has been on sale at shops throughout New Zealand and from the Rugby World Cup website.

But Professor Robert Jahnke, of Massey University's Maori Studies school, says the $13.99 opener is "crass".

"The problem with it, apart from the design that is pretty crappy, [is that] there's always been a debate about whether carvings should be placed in the context of food," Professor Jahnke said.

"For some Maori, it's perceived to be insensitive. It goes against the cultural mores of having the image not associated with food."

The exception to this was some East Coast marae where tiki were carved into dining room walls.

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The bottle opener was particularly inappropriate, as it was placed over the tiki's genitals, Prof Jahnke said.

"That problem, more than anything, is the offensive aspect associated with this particular design.

"From my position, they got it totally wrong. Given that [organisers] are producing that as part of the World Cup publicity, that's the worst thing they could have done."

Professor Jahnke said the tiki was traditionally something worn around the neck of those who occupied a prestigious position in Maori culture.

The tiki was brought to the Manawatu Standard's attention by Palmerston North school teacher and rugby fan Zane McGregor, who said the tiki was a sacred symbol.

He was particularly concerned that it would be associated with alcohol.

"It associated Maori and alcohol, it's not the image you want."

And as the tiki would probably be sought after by overseas visitors, they would make that link.

"As a Maori, this is not how I want us to be seen."

Mr McGregor questioned why the image couldn't have been put on a key ring or pin, which would have avoided the tikanga mistake.

Rugby World Cup spokesman Mike Jaspers did not respond to questions about the opener.

Manawatu Standard