Nike says its Pro Tattoo Tech gear - leggings, sports bras,
jump suits and singlets - features designs "inspired by
tattoos from the southwest Pacific".
Nike is removing a set of women's sports gear inspired by
traditional tatau - tattoos of the Pacific - from its website.
The international sports brand made a cultural faux pas with
the women's leggings, which created the appearance that the
wearer has a traditional Samoan tattoo, the pe'a, which is
reserved for men.
Pasifika blog sites have attracted hundreds of comments since
Nike released the Pro Tattoo Tech gear - leggings, sports
bras, jump suits and singlets - last week.
Some are unhappy about the use of the designs, which are
viewed as sacred.
Others have mocked the women's leggings, calling them manly
and inappropriate for women.
A blogger on the One Samoana Facebook page called Nike's use
of the tatau an "ugly exploitation of culture".
On Change.org, which is organising a petition to stop the
sale of the gear, one person wrote: "This reduces [tatau] to
patterned tights rather than assigning it the mana it
Freddie Ika said: "To the outside world it's just a design.
But to my Polynesian people, it's sacred."
The Samoan pe'a is a tattoo reserved for men. The intricate
lines and colour-blocking are tattooed on to the body using
tools made of carved bone or animal tusks. It is a painful
process that sometimes takes months to complete.
The malu is the tattoo for women and is a simpler pattern,
but just as painful to apply.
Both forms of the tatau are a rite of passage for men and
Victoria University Pacific Studies lecturer Galumalemana
Alfred Hunkin said he did not support such use of the tatau
and would support a campaign to stop the sale of the gear.
Mangere MP Su'a William Sio was tattooed in 1988. He said
seeing the pe'a designs on a woman was upsetting.
"It's disturbing. This is a treasure that is held dear to the
Samoan community. The patterns have a spiritual meaning that
come from one's family and ancestors.
"This just cheapens and belittles all of that. It's a total
disregard of cultural protocol."
Manu Samoa rugby legend Brian Lima and former Hurricanes
winger Lome Fa'atau are proud wearers of the pe'a.
The tatau has also appeared in more contemporary forms among
several sports stars including All Blacks Ma'a Nonu, Ne'emia
Tialata, Sonny Bill Williams and wrestler-turned-Hollywood
actor Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson.
Nike said today the range, which was not available in New
Zealand, was being removed from nike.com and should be gone
"The Nike tattoo tech collection was inspired by tattoo
graphics. We apologise to anyone who views this design as
insenstive to any specific culture," the company said. "No
offense was intended."
The collection was of a limited run and no additional items
would be sold.
Tatau - Pacific tattoos
Pe'a: Traditional Samoan tattoo reserved only for men. Made
up mostly of lines and triangular patterns, the tattoo covers
the abdomen, buttocks, thighs and ends at the knee.
Malu: Traditional Samoan women's tattoo. Simpler patterns
start from the upper thigh to just below the knee.