Overseas reaction concerns artist

Artist Rachael Rakena with her <i>Haka Peep Show</i> in the Octagon. Photo by Peter McIntosh.
Artist Rachael Rakena with her <i>Haka Peep Show</i> in the Octagon. Photo by Peter McIntosh.
The creator of the phallic work of art causing ongoing controversy in Dunedin says she is disappointed the "humour aspect" of the story is being picked up overseas.

Artist Rachael Rakena said yesterday of the strong reaction to the work: "I suppose it is to be expected."

Dunedin Mayor Dave Cull yesterday repeated his support for the Haka Peep Show and "the pleasure it has generated around the city".

But arts commentator Peter Entwisle said while it did have some merit as a work of art - a light-hearted work that was "fun and ribald" - in the context of Dunedin's financial state it was always going to raise the ire of citizens.

Mr Entwisle also said Maori needed to be "thick-skinned and broad-minded" about the use of their culture, as did all other cultures.

The work of art, in the shape of the container used in a Rexona deodorant brand connected to the All Blacks, is a "towering black pou [post or pillar]" that houses 3-D video works of art featuring four haka performed by prominent Maori.

It attracted $50,000 of Dunedin City Council money, and $80,000 from Ngai Tahu.

The work was placed in the Octagon late last week, and Rakena has said it "considers the sexualisation and commodification of Maori and indigenous sportsmen through the use and exploitation of their masculinity and their culture, in the media".

She said the shape was a phallic reference.

It has caused ructions within the council over funding and confidentiality issues, and the story has ended up on the US-based Huffington Post website, accessed by millions, as well as New Zealand newspapers.

Mr Cull said yesterday it appeared the feedback has been "overwhelmingly positive, and I'm grateful to Ngai Tahu for offering us the opportunity to share in this thought-provoking art work".

On questions raised about ownership and the return on investment, Mr Cull said it was not usual for the council to look for a return on its marketing investment which, traditionally, was expected to raise the city's profile and prompt people to visit the city.

Mr Entwisle said if he had been sitting on the committee that agreed to the funding "I would not have voted the money for it, because in the circumstances, it was bound to get people's backs up".

Rakena yesterday said she had received positive feedback about the work. She had not anticipated the controversy over the cost, which was a council concern.

Asked whether All Black Dan Carter selling underwear was not sexualisation, and the use of Scottish imagery in Highlanders' advertisements was not commodification, Rakena agreed it was.

The haka, though, was specific to Maori, she said, and the work was a response to research she had done on the way of indigenous sportsmen were dealt with.

• A complaint has been filed against Dunedin city councillor Lee Vandervis, alleging he broke Dunedin City Council confidentiality rules, it was confirmed yesterday.

Cr Bill Acklin said he sent the complaint to Mr Cull on Wednesday.

His complaint claimed Cr Vandervis had committed a "blatant breach" of the council's code of conduct by discussing confidential aspects of the Haka Peep Show, Cr Acklin said, adding the issue was not about "a tit-for-tat between me and Vandervis".

Cr Vandervis dismissed the move on Wednesday, saying if Cr Acklin "doesn't like things to be transparent, maybe he should look for another job". -

- Additional reporting: Chris Morris

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