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Whānau horrified after revered ancestor depicted bare-breasted and with nipple rings in painting

A Nelson artist has apologised for a painting of a bare-breasted Māori woman with nipple rings that has upset members of the woman's whānau and iwi.

Nikki Romney of Saligia Art Gallery and Studio depicted tribal leader Huria Mātenga in an image that also featured a rescue helicopter and building being damaged by Cyclone Gita.

Mātenga was originally painted by Gottfried Lindauer.

"Totally appalled - more hurt than anything - and disgusted in it," mokopuna Andrew Stephens told TVNZ's Te Karere of the depiction.

Nigel Borell, associate curator Māori Art at the Auckland Art Gallery, spoke of the hurt the use of Mātenga's image in such a way could cause.

"How would you feel about you mother or grandmother being bare-breasted with nipple rings showing for the world to see without your consent," he said.

"I think there's something for us to think about and consider from an ethical and moral standpoint."

In a statement to Te Karere, Ms Romney and gallery co-owner Alan Clarke said they did not expect or intend the artwork to be controversial and apologised for any hurt it caused. 

They said the original artwork has been taken down from the gallery, pending discussion with Ngāti Tama, and a reproduction had been "stolen". 

"It was always intended as a tribute to a strong woman from Nelson's history - a history that isn't really taught or celebrated enough in the wider community."

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A Nelson artist has upset members of Ngāti Tama kit e Waipounamu with her depiction of Huria Mātenga. Source: Te Karere