‘This b***s*** has to stop’: Christian group uses AI to replace Māori head

Popular Māori photographer Te Rawhitiroa Bosch says he intends to take legal action.

Māori photographer Te Rawhitiroa Bosch is hitting out at “the caucacity” of a Christian group using the image of his uncle in promotional material.

The Hope Project issued edited images of Māori people as part of a promotional booklet, which it now intends to pull from circulation.

“They clearly feel entitled to steal our tāonga Māori, our tuakiri Māori, our very identity and appropriate it to their ends,” he said in a rankled social media post last night.

“I don’t even know where to start because it’s so wrong on so many levels but here goes.”

Bosch then rails against the use of his Uncle Patrick’s whakaahua (photograph) as he laid a wero at Te Wānanga Mau Taiaha o Mokoia, with a different person’s head digitally added on top.

“This is so messed up! He mahi tāhae, he takahi,” he wrote.

Bosch says he challenged The Hope Project on it, and was told the images were from the public domain and that copyright didn’t apply.

He also took issue with the context the images were used in, which he said “implied that it represented Ruatara, one of our tupuna from Te Tai Tokerau, to give legitimacy to their religious message.”

Te Rawhitiroa Bosch says he was alerted to the picture by Mohi’s son, Herora.

Yesterday, Te Ao Māori News reported Oriini Kaipara’s likeness had also been adapted by a tauiwi (non-Māori) artist without her permission.

“This b***s*** has to stop,” Rāwhitiroa said regarding the adaptation of indigenous people without permission.

‘It is a serious offence’

Te Rawhitiroa Bosch spoke to Te Ao News today explaining his thoughts on the use of his photos of mau rākau expert Pat Mohi, and its portrayal of an ancestor from another region.

“Kua meatia hei whakatairanga i te kaupapa hāhi, i ngā mahi hāhi me te mea hoki tēnei Te Wānanga Mau Taiaha o Mokoia a Uncle Pat Mohi kua meatia tōna tinana hei whakaatu i tō tāua tūpuna a Ruatara i Te Taitokerau.”

It’s apparently being used to promote religion and religous undertakings and it’s from Uncle Pat Mohi’s Te Wānanga Mau Taiaha o Mokoia where his body is being depicted to portray our ancestor Ruatara who is from Te Taitokerau.

For Māori, the head and body of a person is considered to be tapu (sacred) and Bosch believes the wiping away of a man’s face is a clear violation of tikanga Māori.

“Kei te whakaaro au ki te tapu o te mātenga o te tangata. He tapu tō te tangata ko Uncle Pat tērā, e mahi ana i tētahi mahi motuhake, e whakatakoto ana i te taki, ehara i te mea he mahi noa nei. Kei te whakaaro hoki au ki te tapu o te tangata nāna te kanohi rā. Ko wai tērā tangata, nō hea, he aha ōna whakapapa, kei te mōhio rānei ia kei te whakamahia tōna ūpoko i runga i tēnei tinana.

I recoginse the sacredness of a person’s head. There is a sacredness to a person, in this case Uncle Pat, who is executing a significant task, laying down a ceremonial challenge,. It’s not like that’s just a regular task that is done. I also recognise the sacredness of the person’s face that was being used. Who is this person, where is he from. What is his genealogy. Does he also know that his face is being used on another person’s body?

Bosch is further enraged by the use of his photos without seeking permission before hand.

“Tuatahi he mea tāhae i aku whakaahua, copyright nei. Tuarua ko te mea tino kino ki a au ko tērā ko te muku i te kanohi o tētahi tangata, o taku matua kēkē me te whakamahi kore pātai, kore aha rānei, kore whakaaro mō tētahi kaupapa kāre e paku whai pānga ki Te Wānanga Mau Taiaha o Mokoia, ki ō mātou mātāpono, i ā mātou hiahia ki te kaupapa o tērā whakaahua.

Firstly it is plagarisim of my photos, in a copyright sense. Secondly the worst part of it to me was the wiping away of a person’s face, my own uncle and using it without permission, no consideration at all for something that has no correlation to Te Wānanga Mau Taiaha o Mokoia, our principles, or wishes for the event where that photo was taken.

“He hara nui, he tāhae anō. Kātahi anō mātou ka kite, tātou ka kite kua tāhaetia anō te whakaahua o Oriini o te tuahine rā, e hokohoko ana i tana kanohi ana, ka pā mai anō tēnei.”

It’s a serious offence, and an act of theft. We’ve only just seen that a picture of our sister Oriini’s face was stolen and sold as an art piece, and then this happens.

“Ki a au he takahi, he mahi takahi kei roto i tērā, me te mea hoki e [w]hakapae ana ahau he kūare katoa tā rātou mahi, ehara i te mea i āta mahi ki te takahi i te mana o tētahi engari anei te hua.”

To me it is a violation, a complete violation, and on top of that I would say it was done in complete ignorance. It’s not like they strategically intended to violate the prestige of someone, but here’s the result.

The Hope Project responds

This morning, Hope Project coordinator Dave Mann issued an apology, saying “We are deeply sorry for the offence this has caused and we are committed to putting this right.

“During our Hope Project booklet design process an error got through our checks and that is not acceptable. It is clear we failed in this instance. We are deeply sorry and we are engaging to put this right.”

Mann says the offending image has been removed online, and plans are in motion to stop the remaining booklets being delivered, as well as engaging with those offended.