Google Doodles Dame Whina Cooper without help from Maori artist
Google has made a cultural faux pas in its decision not to commission a Maori artist for its Doodle of Dame Whina Cooper.
The tech giant commemorated what would have been the Maori activist's 120th birthday on Wednesday with a Google Doodle of Dame Whina on its search page.
The picture on Google's logo was sketched by San Francisco animator and filmmaker Olivia Huynh.
Maori artist and designer Johnson Witehira said it was a "faux pas" by Google not to engage a Maori artist on such an important project.
Google had the money and the resources to to get a Maori artist to work on the sketch, so it seemed strange it decided not to, Witehira said.
Following recent media coverage of cultural insensitivity surrounding the use of Native American head-dresses for promotion, advertising and costumes, Google should have been more "switched on" to the cultural implications.
Discussions about indigenous imagery and cultural customs were always held when a project like this was undertaken in New Zealand, he said.
Other countries looked to New Zealand when it came to the correct processes around the handling of indigenous art and culture.
"America is playing catch up now...
"I don't think they intentionally planned to annoy anyone."
Witehira said Google should have engaged a Maori artist and Dame Whina's whanau, but the most important thing was that an important Maori figure was being promoted.
Usually, only Maori actors were afforded this type of promotion, he said.
It was positive to see someone who had such a big impact on Maori and New Zealand culture being recognised on the world stage.
Dame Whina Cooper organised her first demonstration when she was 18.
She rallied a small group to protest the leasing of Maori fishing land.
Later in life Cooper led thousands of people on a landmark march or Hikoi from the Far North to Parliament to decry the loss of millions of acres of Maori land.
Not only did it unite different groups, it drew national attention to Maori land rights.
Dame Whina was an activist for most of her life, fighting tirelessly for Maori, especially women.
She was the first president of the Maori Women's Welfare League and was made a dame in 1981.
December 9, 2015 would have been her 120th.
Google said "Doodler Olivia Huynh took inspiration from photos of the time, highlighting the fact that the march involved people of all ages, all brought together by a passionate and tenacious leader: Whina Cooper".
Google has been contacted for comment.