Elle Hunt, 04 January 2016

Australian ad asking ‘Can you haka Kiwi Berry?’ and depicting Maori warrior performing a haka described by New Zealander as ‘inaccurate and offensive representation of Maori people’

Australia’s advertising standards authority has dismissed a complaint against an advertisement for 7-Eleven’s Kiwi Berry Slurpee that was described as “incredibly racist and offensive” to Maori.

The clip, posted to Slurpee Australia’s Facebook page asks: “Can you haka Kiwi Berry?” It shows a Maori warrior startling two young 7-Eleven customers at the Slurpee machine with an approximation of the traditional war dance.

A complaint made to the Advertising Standards Board by a New Zealander of Maori descent said the ad was a racist, “totally inaccurate and offensive representation of Maori people”.

It criticised the ad’s depiction of Maori language and culture, expressing concern that it could “propagate a racist attitude towards not only Maori, but indigenous people and cultures more broadly”.

“The awkward performance depicts Maori people as illiterate savages who simply grunt and yell their way through their own native songs and dances.

“Put simply, the fact that a non-Maori organisation is cheaply exploiting (not even respectfully appropriating) my culture and customs for [its] own commercial gain is utterly offensive and unethical.”

7-Eleven said it had “carefully considered” the Australian Association of National Advertisers’ code of ethics in devising the ad.

“We note that at no time in the advertisement are the teenage boys threatened in any way … The man’s appearance is reminiscent of a Maori warrior however, his depiction is not in any way intended to ridicule or portray Maori people in a negative manner.”

7-Eleven said the actor was of Maori descent and “willingly agreed to participate in the advertisement and perform a haka from his tribe”.

The particular haka Ka Mate is protected in New Zealand by law that prevents it from being used without the permission of the Ngāti Toa tribe, but the board assessed the advertisement by Australian community standards.

Though “a minority” of the board said the ad “trivialises this important cultural symbol and would be seen as demeaning by Maori people”, the complaint was dismissed “following considerable discussion” because “the Maori man is depicted in a positive manner and appears in control of the situation”.

The use of a cultural practice was deemed appropriate because it was attempting to highlight the product’s link to New Zealand, and the man was “not ridiculed or presented in a light which suggests he is to be laughed at or thought less of”.

The board also noted that the use of the haka in sport, such as by the All Blacks, meant it had “become more commercialised over the years”.

But Morgan Godfery, an indigenous writer and Maori politics commentator based in Wellington, said the advertisement was “appalling”, particularly in the context of New Zealanders’ rights in Australia.

“Mocking the haka is a tired conceit – it’s neither clever nor original. What’s particularly appalling here is that the intention is barely hidden, the haka amounts to a few squawks rather than a genuine performance.

“That said, it certainly doesn’t meet the vilification or discrimination standard. This is a joke in poor taste, but in light of widespread discrimination against New Zealanders in Australia – think of the 501s and the Christmas Island detainees – this seems to be a particularly hurtful and ill-timed ‘joke’.

“What gives the joke away is the ta moko in felt tip pen. It isn’t just about situational humour, as 7-Eleven claims, it’s about having a laugh at the culture too.”

Godfery also questioned whether the actor 7-Eleven said had agreed to perform the haka was of the Ngāti Toa tribe.

Extracted in full from The Guardian.