Well-known Māori advocate Rangi McLean is taking legal action against a German artist over the unauthorised use of his tā moko image.
The Manurewa Marae chairman posed as part of a wider group of 22 Māori for well-known and highly respected New Zealand photographer Michael Bradley.
His portfolio - The Puaki Exhibition - portrayed the participants with their tā moko. Bradley then used digital technology to show what they looked like without their facial tattoos. The exhibition highlighted the suppression of tikanga (Māori culture) and Te Ao Māori (the unique Māori worldview) during New Zealand's colonial period and its subsequent reclamation.
But McLean's image from the photo shoot has now been altered by German artist Gerd Strizel, and is up for sale online, for thousands of euros.
"I got a bloody shock when my mate sent the image to me," McLean said. "I got a bigger shock when I saw how much the German artist was asking for it."
The matter is now in the hands of McLean's lawyers Simpson Grierson. They have sent Strizel a "cease and desist" legal letter.
"We act for Tunuiarangi Rangi McLean (Tuhoe, Ngati Porou, Waikato, Ngāti Māniapoto) (T R McLean) and Michael Bradley Photography Limited (MB Photography)," the legal letter states.
"Our clients have recently become aware of a painted artwork depicting T R McLean that is for sale on Etsy.
"Your artwork appears to be a direct and unauthorised copy of a photograph taken of T R McLean by MB Photography (on April 9, 2015) as part of an exhibition.
"T R McLean is a highly respected senior Māori figure."
The letter also outlines the cultural importance of tā moko.
"One's journey to bear tā moko can come as a result of a long, spiritual journey and will often require the blessing of elders and those in the community with a high degree of standing. It is a deeply sacred practice and is of great significance in Te Ao Māori."
Strizel, according to his website, is following in his father's artistic footsteps and owns the Art Studio in Immenstaad, Germany, with his sister.
He specialises in the creation of large-scale, three-dimensional dream worlds in figure, colour and shape for amusement parks, adventure pools and adventure golf courses.
He has experience as an illusion painter and theatre sculptor.
Strizel has until Wednesday, July 13, 2022, to withdraw the artwork for sale from Etsy. In addition, he has been asked not to sell, or offer for sale, the unauthorised artwork on any platform in the future, not use any intellectual property, imagery or other material related to T R McLean in any artwork context or any other manner in future; and not in the future use any intellectual property, imagery or other material that infringes our clients' rights or in any other way misappropriates or misuses Māori cultural images or is offensive to Māori.