An online Māori leader has slammed the new 'Emotiki' mobile app, calling its Māori-themed emojis "culturally unsafe".
'Emotiki', designed by Te Puia in Rotorua, includes more than 200 free Māori icons that can be shared through iPhone, Android and social media apps.
Karaitiana Taiuru, a 'digital Māori leader' has completed a cultural analysis of the mobile app. Mr Taiuru says his role is to monitor cultural issues involving Māori online.
"I'm making sure Māori have a voice in the digital realm - an area Māori tend to overlook" he told Newshub.
Mr Taiuru says the Emotiki app first got his attention when we saw the image of Tama Iti being used in promotional images.
He was concerned the image of Tame Iti, including his face and ta moko, was being used without his express permission.
Kiri Atkinson-Crean, general manager of sales and marketing at Te Puia, responded that the image doesn't currently feature on the app, but instead is planned for a release later in 2017.
"We reached out to Tame Iti and the other well-known figures regarding their possible involvement. These figures will only be included in the app after meeting and discussing the draft versions with each individual personally," she said.
The satirical Emotiki images also depict the tiki in a number of poses modelled on popular emojis.
"If a non-Māori had done this there would be a public outcry" Mr Taiuru said.
While Mr Tairua has deemed the "satirical use of the tiki culturally unsafe", Ms Atkinson-Crean has defended the Emotiki character, saying "the tiki is one of the most recognised and utilised Māori icons, and in the digital space works well to express a range of emotions."
Mr Taiuru says that he is not against the concept of the Emotiki, and thinks with some improvements, he's "all for an emoji that promotes Māori culture".
Ms Atkinson-Crean told Newshub that Te Puia were aware that the app would create discussion, and they "are proud it's for the advancement of culture into the digital space."
"We will continue to improve the Emotiki app for our users, as well as engage in similar ground-breaking projects to perpetuate Māori culture."