Anger as man's image goes viral in web meme joke

By Waiariki Journalism Student, Amy Childs

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An image of Rotorua man Wharekahika Clarke has gone viral on the internet and is being used to bag Rotorua, New Zealand and Maori culture.

Mr Clarke, who has performed kapa haka all of his life competitively and for tourists at hangi and concert shows throughout the city, is unsure where the image of him in kapa haka costume and with a full facial moko has come from. However, he expects it was probably taken while he was performing at a Rotorua hotel.

The image has been used numerous times on various New Zealand, Rotorua and Maori Facebook meme pages with captions such as "Iwi stands for I want it!", "Biggest marae in NZ - Mount Eden Prison" and "Baby pisses itself, puts it in the dryer".

His image is also the profile photo for three Maori Memes Facebook pages and on one of the pages there are dozens of the memes made from his image. One of the latest shared was on Tuesday.

A Facebook meme page aims to spread ideas about things via the internet.

Mr Clarke's fiancee Rebecca Hendrikse said the use of her partner's photo made her angry and made him look like an idiot.

Mr Clarke said he had been upset at first but now chose not to let it bother him.

"My family and I could understand the humour in the beginning but now my relatives believe it is beyond a joke because there are so many of them. I do see the funny side but people need to be careful that their jokes don't demean or belittle the individual," he said.

Mr Clarke said he was born and bred "Te Arawa tuturu" and did not condone or support the negative messages about Maori, Rotorua or New Zealand in the memes.

"I am a true Rotorua man, Te Arawa at heart and I am proud to be of Maori descent," he said.

New Zealand Memes creator Aaron Cripworth, 18, who is based in Wellington, said he created the Facebook page, which included memes featuring Mr Clarke's image, in late July as a joke and to have a laugh with some of his friends.

He said the picture of Mr Clarke was available as a template on a meme generator website where people could create their own memes.

The Daily Post was unable to contact the meme generator page administrator.

"I didn't choose the picture. People send their creations in to us and we display the ones we like most," Aaron said.

He said he was happy to take memes down if people were directly affected by the images and would now take down all memes featuring Mr Clarke's image.

The teen said he had also taken down another picture depicting John Key and a little girl at the request of the girl's family.

"Her family found the picture and asked for it to be removed so I took the picture down and contacted them to apologise. But if someone not directly affected by it asked me to take it down, I wouldn't remove it because I believe people need to get a sense of humour and realise that no offence is intended by anything we post or share."

Aaron said the page was light-heartedly taking the mickey out of New Zealand culture and current affairs, and had over 63,000 'likes'.

He said if the site had affected someone in a negative way, he would be extremely empathetic towards them, and tried to prevent that from happening.

- ROTORUA DAILY POST

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