Tāme Iti corrects his name on an artwork, owner decries ‘vandalism’

Artist, actor and activist Tāme Iti has corrected his own misspelled name on a painting in a Wellington hotel, prompting calls from the artwork’s owner for the police to investigate.

The painting, “Tama performs in a New Zealand landscape” by Wellington-based artist Dean Proudfoot, depicts Iti but incorrectly spells his first name in its title, which features in its bottom-left hand corner.

In a video posted online on Tuesday and captioned “Every week is Māori language week”, Iti can be seen entering the QT Hotel in Wellington in a coat and hat, looking at various artworks and then sipping a cup of tea.

“They call me Tame, Tama, somehow or another, you know. Such a simple name – Tāme,” he says to the camera.

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Iti then walks up to the artwork by Proudfoot, which is mounted on the wall, removes his coat, takes a paintbrush and orange paint and, letter by letter, paints crosses through the incorrectly-spelt ‘Tama’ on the artwork.

An online video shows Tāme Iti correcting his own name on a painting by Dean Proudfoot in Wellington.

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An online video shows Tāme Iti correcting his own name on a painting by Dean Proudfoot in Wellington.

Then, in white paint, Iti can be seen writing his own, correctly-spelt name above the incorrect version. He then leaves the hotel, saying goodbye to the concierge and wishing him a nice day.

The act is set to the tune of Dr Dre and Snoop Dogg’s The Next Episode.

Art collector and philanthropist Chris Parkin, who owns the artwork, described the act as a defacement.

“As far as I’m concerned it’s straight out vandalism,” Parkin, who is currently overseas, said in a text message. “No different to someone placing graffiti on a building they don’t own. I expect the police to prosecute him. They certainly would me if I went to Te Papa and vandalized an artwork.”

But a police spokesperson could not find any report which matched that description, and said it may be making its way through the system.

Wellington art collector and philanthropist Chris Parkin owns the artwork.

Monique Ford/Stuff

Wellington art collector and philanthropist Chris Parkin owns the artwork.

When contacted, Iti referred inquiries through to the owner of the artworks.

In an emailed statement, Proudfoot, the artist of the work, said he unreservedly apologized to Iti.

“There was no offense intended – it was a clear lack of research on my behalf. This series of works has always been about celebrating Aotearoa New Zealand’s unique characters,” Proudfoot said.

Iti was the “epitome” of what made Aotearoa special, he said.

Painted in 2008, the artwork referenced Iti’s performance of Shakespeare in London in 2008 and the shooting of an Australian flag during a Waitangi Tribunal hearing at Tauarau Marae in 2005.

“What Tāme has done in ‘correcting’ it, has given the work a new life with a far more powerful meaning. It has been elevated. I thank him for that and from what I’ve learned as well,” Proudfoot said.

Iti starred earlier this year in 'Muru', inspired by the Tūhoe raids.

Jawbone Pictures

Iti starred earlier this year in ‘Muru’, inspired by the Tūhoe raids.

Of Ngāi Tūhoe descent, Iti was a key member of the activist group Ngā Tamatoa that fought through the 1970s to confront violations of Te Tiriti and combat discrimination.

Iti worked with the Ngāi Tūhoe community to create, co-produce and star in the feature film Muru, an action-drama inspired by the Tūhoe raids.

On Tuesday the Film Commission announced the film would be New Zealand’s contender for next year’s Best International Feature Film category in the Academy Awards.

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