Queen with moko portrait draws complaints

ROYAL MOKO: The portrait by artist Barry Ross Smith of  the Queen  with a traditional Maori tattoo.
ROYAL MOKO: The portrait by artist Barry Ross Smith of the Queen with a traditional Maori tattoo.

A portrait of Queen Elizabeth II with a traditional Maori tattoo has raised the ire of Palmerston North residents who believe the image is insulting to both Maori and the Queen.

The print, at the Downtown Art & Framing store, features a young Queen Elizabeth with a moko on her chin and lips.

The date of the Treaty of Waitangi signing appears in Roman numerals next to the monarch.

Palmerston North Maori warden Nola Te Papa, of Tuhoe, said she was shocked when she first walked past the print on Tuesday.

"I shouted: 'what an insult to the Queen'. To sell that for $500 – no way. He needs to get that wiped.

"I love the Queen. People don't like her because of what's gone on in the past, but it's not her fault."

Resisting the urge to kick the print, Miss Te Papa walked into the store and gave the owner a piece of her mind.

"Those are only worn in Tuhoe by people in the chief's bloodline," she said.

"These artists are getting too carried away with the Maori moko, that's abusive. They are just printing it anywhere."

The print was a breach of tikanga (Maori custom), which could result in bad luck for family members of the Queen and the artist, Miss Te Papa said.

"It doesn't matter that it's a picture because the Queen is a real person."

Moxons Gemtime Jewellers employee Bev Blackwell said it was an insult to Maori culture and the Queen.

"I think it's disgusting and offensive. It should be destroyed and taken away."

Paeroa artist Barry Ross Smith, who created the artwork last year, said it was not intended as an attack on anyone.

"It was a way to show as a country that we have self determination from England.

"We actually built an entirely new race by signing the treaty, so the Queen of that new race would need a moko."

Mr Smith also did a self portrait in which he has a full facial moko – a statement about the merger of two equal cultures.

He said the portrait of the Queen was a celebration, and the response had been overwhelmingly positive.

Mr Smith had received negative emails about the print, but they were mostly from people with separatist beliefs.

Downtown Art & Framing store manager Cameron Autrobus said at least one copy of the print has been sold. "To be honest, the whole time we've had it we've only had two complaints. If you don't like it, then don't buy it."

Manawatu Standard