A young Northland band accused of being too "pasty white" to be Maori have fought back saying being Maori is about having a connection to culture.
Heavy metal band Alien Weaponry comprises two brothers, 15-year-old drummer Henry de Jong and 13-year-old guitarist and vocalist Lewis de Jong who are both of Ngati Pikiao and Ngati Tuara descent, and bass player Ethan Trembath, 13, who is also of Maori descent. But, despite their Maori heritage, critics have assumed because two of the boys have blonde locks and the trio all have white skin - they therefore are not Maori.
"Well we just have a laugh about it. It's just comments from people who don't have knowledge of New Zealand history," said Henry.
Video: Alien Weaponry performing their heavy metal te reo Maori song Ruana Te Whenua (The Trembling Earth) at Auckland's Powerstation.
The comments from critics came after a story about the band winning $10,000 in NZ on Air funding to finish recording and to produce a music video for their te reo Maori song Ruana Te Whenua (The Trembling Earth). The song is about Henry and Lewis' great-great-great grandfather, Te Aho Aho, who died defending his home territory in the Battle of Gate Pa in Tauranga in 1864.
One commenter said, "I thought it was all about culture. Couldn't be any more pasty white than this," and another said "Names like de Jong and Trembath couldn't be any less Maori. It's an insult to Maori for these guys to say they have any Maori ancestry."
When the Advocate spoke to Henry yesterday he was preparing to sit his NCEA Level 1 Maori exam that afternoon.
"Being Maori is not about the colour of your skin, or your last name. It's about how you connect with your culture."
Henry said the boys were used to the odd comment questioning the legitimacy of their culture. People used to comment on their skin colour when they attended Te Kura Kaupapa Maori o Nga Maungarongo in Auckland when they were younger. "It used to upset us but because of that we know being Maori is about knowing your whakapapa and connecting with your culture."