Nikki Romney's painting, Taking Tikanga to the World, is causing controversy. Photo: Supplied.

Nelson artist threatened after ‘disrespectful’ painting

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A Nelson artist has received verbal threats and online comments about setting her gallery on fire over a painting depicting non-Maori women with moko.

Nikki Romney said the painting, Taking Tikanga to the World, shows a globally diverse group of young women wearing non-traditional moko against the backdrop of a famous portrait by Charles Goldie.

It was inspired, she said, by tourists visiting her gallery and proudly displaying Maori tattoos and an app developed by Te Wananga O Aotearoa for people to create a digital image of their face with “non-traditional” moko.

Romney has been slammed on social media for the “disrespectful” work and said last week a man came into her gallery accusing her of being a “f****** racist Pākehā” and threatened to burn her gallery down.

Police said they had received a report of a man entering the gallery and being verbally aggressive, but there were limited lines of inquiry to identify him as there was no CCTV coverage.

Among the hundreds of messages on social media about the painting are a handful of comments about burning the gallery down.

“This concerns us greatly as there are two groups of people living in the gallery building, none of them with any connection to the gallery itself,” Romney said.

She said people have the right to dislike or object to her art, but harassment and threats to destroy a business are not okay.

“Art is not meant to be stifled and if we live in a society where art is shut down or restricted, then I believe we have lost who we are – a diverse group of people from different cultures, generations, beliefs and values.”

– NZ Herald