New Zealand-born Playboy model Jaylene Cook should know a thing or two about Maori traditions and beliefs, but she seems to have overlooked them anyway after shooting an Instagram photo on top of a sacred indigenous site completely naked.
The 25-year-old who resides in Australia said she decided to strip off for the photo to feel “freedom and empowerment” after a 12-hour hike to the top of Mount Taranaki, on the west coast of New Zealand’s North Island last Wednesday.
The snap was taken by Cook’s photographer boyfriend, Josh Shaw, and shows the Playboy Playmate who has been on several magazine covers, wearing nothing but sneakers, gloves and a hat on top of the 8,261 ft high mountain.
WE DID IT!! This was BY FAR the hardest thing I have ever done! Both mentally and physically. 2 minutes out of the car park I was already hurting, sweating and ready to turn back But it’s amazing what you can accomplish with the encouragement and support of your partner! I could not have done this without you babe @thejoshshaw! • Mount Taranaki Summit 9000ft ❄️ -11’C/35km winds ♀️ 12.6km (1.6km elevation) ⏰ 2am – 6.30pm (12hr hike time) 20kg pack (Josh had 40kg ) • This climb has forever changed me. I proved just how far I could push myself and I am truely proud of my accomplishment. This mountain was steep, rugged, ever changing and just pure brutal! Safe to say, I will never do it again
Mount Taranaki in Māori, or Mount Egmont in English, is a dormant volcano and one of the most symmetrical volcanic cones in the world. According to the natives’ mythology, the male volcanoes of Taranaki and Tongariro were involved in an epic battle over the female volcano of Pihanga. It became the Egmont National Park in 1990, the nation’s second such reserve.
The area is the burial ground of the local tribe’s ancestors and the mountain is itself seen as an ancestor. The Māori believe climbing to the top of Taranaki is inappropriate and ascending the peak is done only for rare ceremonial purposes. Tourists are advised not to stand directly on the summit stone, as well as being asked not to litter or camp on the summit.
A spokesperson for the local community and Māori academic, Dennis Ngawhare, told the BBC: “It’s like someone went into St Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican and took a nude photo. It’s a sacred place and something like this is just very inappropriate.”
“People might say it’s just rocks and earth so how can you disrespect it?” Ngawhare continued, “We simply ask people to please be respectful. This latest case is just another really annoying example where someone obviously didn’t know how to behave here.”
The scholar revealed no one in his family has ever climbed up to the volcano’s summit as it would equate to stepping on an ancestor’s body. He said he accepts other people and tourists ascending the peak if they treat the site with respect.
Perhaps he sublimed the issue perfectly by saying how the model’s actions were perceived as “a clash between Western assumptions and indigenous values and beliefs.”
The mayor of the local Stratford district, Neil Volzke, also spoke to the BBC about Cook’s choice of clothing (or the lack of it) and agreed her choice was a little insensitive.
“I don’t think the picture itself is offensive or obscene – it is just inappropriate to take on top of Mount Taranaki, Volzke said. “This is a place with a great deal of importance for the Maori community.”