Erin Simpson says sorry for 'offensive' monkey moko artwork

Erin Simpson says sorry for 'offensive' monkey moko artwork
Photo credit: Parnell.net.nz, Erin Simpson

Kiwi TV presenter Erin Simpson has issued an apology after some of her artwork featuring Tikanga Māori designs caused outrage on social media. 

A monkey sculpture entitled 'Koro' wearing traditional Tā moko facial tattoos and a Korowai feather cloak was dubbed "racially insensitive", prompting hundreds of upset comments after it was shared on Simpson's social media account. 

She's since deleted the post featuring the artwork, which was commissioned in 2016 for a charity auction celebrating The Year of the Monkey for Chinese New Year. 

The former kids' television host then shared a press shot of herself emblazoned with the words "rise above bullies" along with a lengthy caption that claimed "haters are always gonna hate", complaining that people "chose to tear Kiwis down rather than support and showcase". 

That post has also now been deleted and Simpson has issued a written apology. 

"It has come to my attention in the past 48 hours that some of my previous artwork and designs have offended and I want to sincerely apologise for that," Simpson wrote on Monday night. 

"I want to make it clear that I am learning, listening and taking constructive comments on board and plan to move forward with these considerations as my business and career progress." 

"I have always been a proud Kiwi woman, proud of my country heritage and the many customs we have instilled in us from when we are very young," Simpson continued.

Erin Simpson says sorry for 'offensive' monkey moko artwork
Photo credit: Instagram/Erin Simpson, Parnell.net.nz

"Naturally, I would be inspired by these as they are they fabric of my upbringing, this in no way means I was trying to take from or tarnish such things." 

Simpson said she looks at trademark laws and copyright agreements when creating her work, and claimed her designs were inspired by New Zealand's native bush and blessed in the Waikato River. The former Sticky TV presenter added that she had also sought advice from a "well known Maori cloak designer" to source the featherwork. 

"It's never my intention to break any laws, hurt people or go against Maori Sacredness," she wrote. 

"Moving forward, I will be looking to take a more culturally conscious stand on what I create and how I present future designs. 

"I will look to immerse myself further in more discussions around this beautiful country's past and present, what customs mean in further detail and why they are sacred to our indigenous people/ ancestors." 

Simpson said she hoped "constructive conversations" would replace "assumptions and aggressive narratives" towards her. 

Despite being 'liked' on Instagram nearly 500 times at the time of writing, Simpson's apology has been rejected by some. Commenting has been turned off on the post, but Instagram users have responded on some of Simpson's other recent posts. 

"You've made a statement but turned off comments. That's exactly how Maori feel, shut out of the conversations affecting them," one comment read. 

"Take that fake ass apology down!" said another. 

One user addressed Simpson's use of the term "Maori Sacredness" in her statement, claiming it demonstrated she had a "long journey ahead of her" in order to "learn respect". 

"Please actually learn about Māori culture (which is not your culture) instead of your capitalist, colonising, and shallow engagement with it," the comment read.

"The word is TAPU not 'sacredness'. If you understand the meaning of tapu you might learn some respect." 

Simpson concluded by saying Māori culture was something she "held so dear to her heart" having spent her "whole life immersed" in it.

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